Congress reaches doc fix deal; hospitals jeer cuts

Congress approved a deal this morning, averting the proposed 27.4 percent Medicare cut to physicians for 10 months, but hospitals are booing the funding cuts to hospital services that are intended to offset the avoided physician cuts.

If enacted, inpatient acute care hospitals will see Medicare bad debt payments reduced to 65 percent beginning in fiscal year 2013, down from the current 70 percent, AHA News Now reported. Critical access hospitals also will see a payment reduction to 65 percent, down from 100 percent, over three years.

"While we support ensuring that physicians will not see their Medicare payments reduced, we are extremely disappointed that once again Congress is putting seniors' access to hospital services in jeopardy through arbitrary reductions to hospitals. Today's proposal would add an unnecessary strain to hospitals that care for vulnerable populations," American Hospital Association President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock said yesterday. Calling the cuts "shortsighted," Umbdenstock said the budget would hurt low-income senior patients. "We need thoughtful approaches to improving health care not indiscriminate cuts that harm patients' access to care," he continued.    

Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, told Bloomberg, "We shouldn't have an approach focused solely on cuts." Obama's budget "reflects that singular direction," he said, and "is tantamount to cutting Medicare benefits."

Congress voted on the bill this morning before going on recess, and it now goes for presidential approval. The president said he would sign it, having urged Congress to move it along without delay, according to CNN.
 
For more information:
- see the AHA News Now brief
- read the AHA statement (.pdf)
- read the Bloomberg article
- here's the Politico brief
- read the CNN article

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[Updated 2/17/12 at 1:33pm EST]

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