Plan for Sequestration Relief Must Consider Hospitals

A recent POLITICO article highlights the latest state of negotiations between Budget Conference Chairs Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who are reportedly close to a proposal that would replace certain domestic and defense sequester cuts for the next two years and increase spending from $967 billion into the $1 trillion range. A bill could be introduced as early as this week with floor action next week.  A deal struck between Ryan and Murray could help stave off a potential second government shutdown next month.

The article explains that the new spending would be divided equally and sequester cuts would be spread out and moved to different programs and areas in the budget:

“If the two sides agree to that approach, the increase in spending would be split about evenly between defense and nondefense spending, sources said. Roughly $80 billion of the sequester cuts would instead be shifted to other programs in the federal budget, but overall deficit reduction would remain unchanged.”

The story goes onto name Head Start, transportation and housing programs as those domestic spending items atop the priority list for relief.  It is imperative that any negotiation to replace sequester cuts include relief for hospitals’ $45 billion in Medicare sequester cuts. Continuation of these cuts will threaten hospital jobs, patient access to care and hospital closures in rural regions, as well as hinder the progress made in the historic spending slowdown in health care.

Hospitals have already borne the brunt of mounting payment cuts, working to deliver the high quality care patients need and deserve. In the past three years alone, local hospitals nationwide have faced $95 billion in cuts, with the sequester accounting for $45 billion. In total, hospitals are facing nearly $500 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts over the course of the next ten years.  Enough is enough; Medicare must be included in the sequester relief.

Hospitals provide care 24/7, no matter the circumstances. In the face of these massive cuts, hospitals have been forced to downsize their staffs and, in some cases, even close their doors completely, forcing members of their community to seek care far from home.

Sequestration relief is necessary for hospitals to continue to serve their communities and protect patient access to care nationwide. The FAH urges the budget conferees to include relief for hospitals and health care in their negotiations.

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