The talk in Washington these days centers largely on the deficit and what we must do to put our nation's fiscal house in order. Sometime before July, Congress must take action to raise the nation's debt ceiling—the legal limit on borrowing by the federal government. If Congress fails to raise the limit, the government will be in danger of default.
Lately it seems as if a new plan for reducing the deficit is released every week. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan
(R-WI) recently unveiled a plan that would cut more than $6 trillion in government spending over the next 10 years, including nearly $2 trillion from health care.
President Obama released a framework for reducing the federal deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years, including $480 billion in savings from Medicare and Medicaid. He also has asked Vice President Biden to work with a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate to find agreement on a framework for comprehensive deficit reduction.
In addition, a bipartisan group of senators is expected to contribute a plan soon, which likely will contain aspects of the recommendations made last December by the Simpson-Bowles commission, on which four members of the group served. These plans offer legislators a menu of options as they seek ways to cut spending and reduce the deficit.
In the coming weeks, please reach out to your legislators and urge them to oppose any efforts to further reduce payments for hospital services under Medicare and Medicaid.
America's hospitals know what it means to be part of shared sacrifice to achieve national goals—the field already absorbed $155 billion in reductions as part of health reform, as well as state budget cuts. And, that does not include other cuts imposed by regulation.
It's time that every other sector of society be held to the same level of shared sacrifice—examination and scrutiny—as hospitals have been. Please urge your lawmakers to look outside the hospital and health care sector for new ideas that could achieve budget savings.
Penny Brooke (PennyBrooke@nurs.utah.edu) is COG chair and a trustee of Intermountain Health Care Central Urban Region in Salt Lake City.