Rich Umbdenstock
President and CEO American Hospital Association  
November 17, 2010    

As Americans continue to be burdened by our nation's economic problems, we will all have to make sacrifices in order to move our country forward.  The task to find solutions is not an easy one and we applaud the Debt Reduction Task Force for taking on the challenge.  

The report released today by the Debt Reduction Task Force makes recommendations that will help our nation reduce and stabilize its debt.  It rightly rejects the inclusion of further payment reductions to hospitals, suggested by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.  We share this view because hospitals have already contributed $155 billion as part of health reform and further reductions would impact hospitals' ability to care for their communities.  In addition, we commend the task force for including liability reform in its recommendations, which would greatly add to the nation's efforts to control health care spending.     

We appreciate the willingness of the task force to take a balanced approach to changes in the Medicare program.  However, some recommendations of concern include the proposal to make the bundling pilots for acute and post-acute services permanent with the requirement of producing savings.  As we have in the past, we urge caution about moving too quickly before this concept is fully tested and understood.  Improving quality and coordination of care should be the goal, not cost savings.  We also have serious reservations about an artificial cap on the Medicaid program.  For example, during our current economic downturn, spending under the Medicaid program has increased above projected levels to help those in need.  A cap would penalize providers and beneficiaries in the program under similar circumstances.  At the same time, we also believe that the new federal-state partnership in Medicaid deserves further discussion.  

We know there are no easy solutions to get our fiscal house in order and the AHA will continue to be part of the dialogue to offer solutions that will benefit the patients and communities hospitals serve.  We again commend the Task Force for its contribution to the debate and for moving beyond the health care sector to look at other sectors that could help reduce the deficit.