Hos­pi­tals anx­iously await Obama’s budget pro­posal

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Jes­sica Zig­mond

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is sched­uled to re­lease his 2015 budget Tues­day and the na­tion’s hos­pi­tals are once again ner­vous about cuts to their federal pay­ments.

Even though Congress and the pres­i­dent re­cently agreed to a two-year budget deal, health­care providers are tak­ing noth­ing for granted.

In a let­ter last week, Amer­i­can Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent and CEO Richard Umb­den­stock im­plored Obama to pro­tect ben­e­fi­cia­ries by not propos­ing Medi­care cuts. Since 2010, hos­pi­tals have seen pay­ment re­duc­tions up­wards of $117 bil­lion, in­clud­ing more than $58 bil­lion in Medi­care se­ques­tra­tion cuts, ac­cord­ing to Umb­den­stock.

“Hos­pi­tals also con­tinue to ab­sorb the dif­fer­ence be­tween what it costs to pro­vide care to Medi­care ben­e­fi­cia­ries and the re­im­burse­ment that Medi­care pro­vides,” Umb­den­stock wrote. “In ad­di­tion, the ex­pan­sion of in­sur­ance cov­er­age en­vi­sioned in the Af­ford­able Care Act has not yet been re­al­ized.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he ex­pects House Repub­li­cans to re­lease a fis­cal 2015 budget, while Se­nate Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Patty Mur­ray (D-Wash.) in­di­cated the Se­nate won’t re­lease one, given that con­gres­sional lead­ers inked a deal in De­cem­ber that set­tled the federal budget for both 2014 and 2015.

Though it seems there won’t be any budget agree­ments in this elec­tion year, there is still rea­son for hos­pi­tals to be leery, said Don Mo­ran, an Ar­ling­ton, Va.-based health­care con­sul­tant. He said Obama needs fund­ing for a Medi­care sus­tain­able growth-rate fix and ben­e­fit im­prove­ments. “So I don’t think it’s safe for providers to as­sume that the elec­tion cy­cle will save them from ad­verse pro­pos­als.”

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