Obama's budget disappoints hospital groups

Hospital groups have expressed dismay over President Obama's proposed FY 2012 budget, which cuts programs and stretches states thinner.

The main hospital lobby, the American Hospital Association, issued a statement from its president and CEO, Rich Umbdenstock, expressing disappointment over budget cuts to Medicaid. At a time when hospitals already have been asked to absorb big cuts at the state level and state budgets are already stretched, "it is unwise to ask states to continue to do more with less," he said.

Obama's proposed budget would cut $18.4 billion in federal Medicaid funding by lowering the amount that states could tax providers-- including hospitals--to help finance Medicaid, Kaiser Health News reports. Lower provider taxes would cut the amount states could collect to spend on Medicaid and ultimately would lessen the amount the federal government could put up to match state funds.

In a press conference Monday, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick tried to reassure states already struggling with Medicaid costs. The healthcare reform law will offer more funding for Medicaid before states begin to feel the impact of tax restrictions, which start in 2015.

Another cut that disappointed hospital groups was Obama's recommendation that the Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education program be killed in FY 2012. Eliminating the program would narrow the pediatric workforce pipeline at a time when children's timely access to care already is impaired, according to the National Association of Children's Hospitals. The CHGME program helps fund the training of more than 5,600 FTE residents each year.

Umbdenstock also expressed disappointment over the elimination of funding for the CHGME. "While we fully support eliminating future reductions to physicians, the answer to the physician payment issue is not cutting one provider to reimburse another," he said.

To learn more:
- read the AHA statement
- here's the NACH press release
- read the Kaiser Health News story

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