Hospital groups blast unemployment fix that would include Medicare cuts

Leading hospital trade groups condemn a proposal in Congress to offset an extension of unemployment benefits with Medicare provider cuts, The Hill Healthwatch reports.

Eight groups, including the American Hospital Association, Premier Healthcare Alliance, America's Essential Hospitals and the Federation of American Hospitals said the proposal, which would extend sequester cuts into 2024, would "jeopardize health services for seniors," according to the article.

In an open letter to members of Congress, the coalition of groups, collectively known as the Coalition to Protect America's Health Care, said that while they do not oppose an extension of unemployment benefits, "[h]ospitals already face $113 billion in cuts that have been imposed over the last three years at a time of enormous change and challenges."

After the last round of unemployment benefits expired in December, Congressional Democrats and Republicans have struggled to reach an accord to extend them, according to the article. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has proposed to offset the cost of the extension by ending duplicate payments for unemployment and disability insurance, as well as by adding another year of sequester cuts.

"Medicare is being cut time and time again--most recently under the budget deal signed into law just weeks ago, which added some $9 billion in sequester-related hospital cuts alone," Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said in a statement. "It is bad policy to extend arbitrary sequester cuts that could undermine care for seniors. Medicare is meant to assure seniors access to needed medical care, not serve as a piggybank for other programs."

Sequestration, which took effect last year, has taken a toll on healthcare providers. Last summer, military hospitals were hit particularly hard, leaving beds in "critically short supply" and forcing some patients to delay treatment or seek it at private medical centers, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Healthwatch post
- read the open letter (.pdf)
- read Kahn's statement (.pdf)