Denise Sloan Smart
Barton HealthCare System
California's hospitals, most of which are already under enormous financial pressures, may find it even harder to care for patients if President Bush's proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and the State-Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) are adopted.
â€œThe California Hospital Association (CHA) is calling on Congress to reject these unprecedented reductions,â€ said John Williams, CEO of Barton HealthCare System. â€œThis is not a time to slash payments when many California hospitals are experiencing sever financial problems.â€
On Friday 43 senators and 221 representatives in Washington DC echoed Williams' sentiments. In a letter initiated Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), the legislators added their names and urged their committees to move legislation that would prevent these medical care cuts â€œfrom moving forward with the implementation of this dangerous and unfair rule.â€
According to the Bush Administration's newly released FY 2008 budget, $75.8 billion would be cut from the Medicare program, while the Medicaid program would see its budget reduced by $25.7 billion over five years.
For California hospitals, this proposal means that Medicare funding could be slashed by $3 billion, while Medicaid payments may be reduced by $1.5 billion over the next five years.
The Administration's budget proposal comes on top of a regulation issued on Jan. 18 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would reduce Medicaid funding to California's public and private hospitals by as much as $550 million each year.
â€œTaken together, these cuts would seriously compromise the ability of our state's hospitals to care for low income Californians,â€ Williams said. â€œThe proposed cuts far surpass any previous efforts to cut spending in the two federal programs that are essential to the health and well-being of our seniors and low-income patients.â€
The Administration's budget proposal would also reduce federal funding for children's health insurance, an unexpected recommendation given that in his State of the Union address two weeks ago, the President offered recommendations for expanding health insurance coverage to the uninsured.
â€œThe S-CHIP program is widely recognized as helping to significantly reduce the number of uninsured children in California,â€ Williams said.
Recently, the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), a Congressional advisory panel aimed at issues affecting the Medicare program, recommended that Medicare increases be given to hospitals beginning Oct. 1, 2007.
â€œIn light of MedPAC's recommendations, it is hard to understand the proposed cuts in payments to hospitals at a time when they are already facing unprecedented financial pressures and unfunded governmental mandates,â€ Williams added.