Doc groups warn global federal cuts will damage care delivery

Healthcare providers are cautioning against across-the-board caps on federal spending, which would would have detrimental consequences for those who depend on federal programs for healthcare, as well as for those delivering the care.

A study by the Lewin Group found that the proposed Commitment to American Prosperity Act would cut $859 billion from Medicare and $575 billion in federal Medicaid payments to states between 2013 and 2021. Thanks to those spending cuts, 5.1 million people would lose their health insurance, and 1.3 million healthcare workers would lose their jobs, the study states.

While providers acknowledge that reduced spending is necessary to overcome the nation's deficit, they caution against an across-the-board approach.

"Arbitrary caps that don't take into account the growing healthcare needs of our aging population are bad news for the patients and communities hospitals serve," said President and CEO of the American Hospital Association Rich Umbdenstock in a statement. 

That's because, with such sweeping cuts, providers would see Medicare payments drop by an average of 14.3 percent during the period between 2013 and 2021, according to the study. As a result, total provider revenues would fall an average of 5.3 percent, forcing most to operate in the red and compromising patient access to care.

Hospitals would also feel the negative impact of cuts in Medicaid payments to states, as provider payments under the Medicaid program would drop an average of 8.1 percent, according to the study.

So providers are calling on Congress to adopt a piecemeal approach to spending cuts. "With baby boomers entering Medicare and more patients joining Medicaid, the AMA encourages policymakers to focus on policy changes that will protect vulnerable patients while improving the fiscal health of the nation," said newly inaugurated American Medical Association President Peter Carmel, MD.

The groups that commissioned The Lewin Group study include the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, AARP, American College of Cardiology, and LeadingAge.

For more information:
- here's the study (.pdf)
- read the provider groups' statements