fah hospital policy blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America’s hospitals and the patients we serve.

Category Archives: sequester

Debt Ceiling Politics: Medicare as a Piggybank Once Again

February 10, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Medicare, Sequester

Later this week, the House is poised to consider debt ceiling legislation that would once again cut Medicare payments to hospitals that care for seniors. The message from Congress to America’s seniors and the hospitals that care for them seems crystal clear—Medicare can be treated as a budgetary piggybank.

The FAH is deeply dismayed to see the Medicare sequester extension once again offered as a means to pay for other legislative priorities. Just a few weeks ago, the Senate rejected a similar effort to fund the unemployment extension bill.

Congress must recognize that the cumulative cuts to hospitals are unquestionably impacting access to care for seniors and local health care jobs. In fact, with the recent December budget deal and the physician payment patch, Congress has imposed billions more in Medicare cuts to hospitals over ten years, which now totals well over $400 billion. In the last three years alone, $113 billion in ten year cuts have been imposed. Hospitals strive to be as efficient as possible and to do more with less, but these cuts are now contributing to the lowest negative hospital Medicare margins in history. It is impossible for these cumulative cuts to not impact patient access.

Extending the Medicare sequester to 2024 is bad public policy, and would take billions more dollars from financially stressed local community hospitals striving to provide care to seniors.

It is for this reason that the entire hospital community has joined together in sending a letter to Congress opposing the Medicare sequester extension and calling for members to reject this proposal. We urge Congress to stand up for your local hospitals, the communities they serve, and the seniors that depend on them.

The FAH will continue to fight for our patients. Protecting their access to care is our priority and we will not allow hospitals and Medicare to serve as the piggybank for every passing political crisis.

Read More »

Putting a Stop to the Medicare Piggybank Protocol

January 13, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Medicare, Sequester

As the Senate prepares to vote on the Reed amendment, which would extend Medicare sequester cuts to 2024 to pay for the extension of unemployment benefits, several in the health policy arena are speaking out with words of caution about using Medicare as a budgetary panacea. In a new post on Healthcare Lighthouse, Billy Wynne outlines the concerns many of us share about perpetual extensions of the sequester to cure immediate budget needs. Wynne explains:

“…in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (the Ryan-Murray deal), to the surprise of virtually everyone, the Medicare sequester was extended by two years, bifurcating it both chronologically and politically from the rest of the sequester. This also, as some stakeholders warned at the time, appeared to establish the Medicare component of the sequester (only) as a perennial source for cash when Congress has others priorities to pay for.

Turns out these critics were right, because now Congress has seriously considered extending these Medicare cuts again to pay for a completely unrelated item. At the Lighthouse, we always strive to deliver unbiased facts, without sauce or spin. But the formalization of Medicare as a permanent piggy bank, sitting on Congress’ shelf with a loose hatch on its underbelly, should probably get a little more public scrutiny, to say the least.”

To be clear, the FAH supports the extension of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans. We in no way want to prevent those resources from getting to individuals and families in need. The issue at hand is Congress creating a new, dangerous legislative crutch by using Medicare as a piggybank, putting millions of American seniors at risk in the process. With cuts approaching well over $400 billion over the next ten years, the nation cannot afford for Congress to keep draining tens of billions more from Medicare. Hospitals will close, access to care will be impacted, and seniors will not have vital services they need.

The FAH once again implores members of Congress to oppose the Reed amendment and the damaging consequences it poses for millions of American seniors.

Read More »

Pushing Medicare Past the Financial Brink: Why Using Medicare as a Piggybank is the Wrong Decision

January 10, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Medicare, Sequester

America’s hospitals are deeply sensitive to the needs of securing additional support for the millions of American’s who remain unemployed. However, any solution that would extend the Medicare sequester to 2024 is terrible public policy. This would create a dangerous precedent for members of Congress, and will create serious problems for Americans—especially our most vulnerable seniors on Medicare. As Emily Ethridge highlights in a story out today, the notion of paying for the extension of unemployment benefits by adding another year onto the sequester has raised the ire of many in the health care arena.

Local community hospitals already face more than $400 billion in cuts over the next ten years; $113 billion in cuts have been imposed over the last three years alone. Further, Medicare already pays far below the cost to provide essential care for seniors. More cuts will force hospital closures, cuts to jobs and critical services and restrict access to care for millions of Americans nationwide.

It is unacceptable for Congress to routinely find “solutions” to fiscal problems by smashing the Medicare piggy bank. The amendment put forth by Senator Reed breaks the promise to America’s seniors by threatening to undermine their access to care. The FAH urges Senators to oppose the Reed amendment and work to find alternative ways to extend critically important unemployment benefits.

Read More »

Cutting Medicare: Hurting Patients and Local Hospitals

January 09, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Medicare, Sequester

As members of Congress search for a means to pay for the recently approved extension of unemployment benefits, extending the Medicare sequester for an additional year—to 2024—is being discussed as one possible solution. The FAH strongly opposes this idea and is disappointed Congress would cut Medicare and threaten access to care for seniors.

The Medicare sequester is already causing serious financial strife and hospitals have not seen any relief in the latest redistribution of sequester cuts. Harsh cuts are the everyday reality for your local hospitals, and in turn, our patients. In 2012, hospitals faced nearly $46 billion in uncompensated care, up from $41 billion in 2011. Hospitals already face more than $400 billion in cuts over the next ten years; $113 billion in cuts have been enacted over the last three years alone.

Extending the Medicare sequester doesn’t merely add numbers to hospital cuts—it impacts every hospital and every patient we care for. There are lives behind the economics. This is the reality when hospitals face increasing cuts:

* Patient access to care is threatened

* Hospital closures occur, especially in rural regions

* Health care jobs are lost, further hurting the local community economy

Policymakers cannot continue with these decisions that rob Peter to pay Paul. The extension of unemployment benefits cannot come at the expense of hospitals and our patients. The FAH is disappointed to learn Congress is considering an extension and urges members to find an alternate, fiscally responsible solution to the issue at hand.

Read More »