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Dangerous precedent

January 24, 2014

When the Senate returns to Capitol Hill next week it could consider a proposal to pay for an extension of unemployment benefits by lengthening even further the sequester provision that cuts 2% from Medicare payments for hospital services (see story on page 1). That would be a huge mistake.

Using critical health care dollars to pay for other programs is a dangerous precedent and heightens our concerns about what could happen when the short-term Medicare physician payment fix and Medicare extenders expire March 31.

Hospitals have endured cut after cut in federal funding – some $113 billion over the past three years (not counting reductions due to the “Affordable Care Act”) at a time of enormous change and challenges. Enough already!

Hospital patients can’t afford a Congress that treats Medicare funding like a piggy bank for other programs. If you haven’t done so already, register your outrage at using health care dollars to pay for other programs. Urge your senators to reject any proposal to use Medicare funding to fund other programs. Be heard now!

Support BLS surveys

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) consumer price index (CPI) is one of the most familiar measures in economics. The CPI is an estimate of the average change in prices that Americans pay over time for a market basket of consumer goods and services. It affects virtually everything, including, of course, the hospital market basket and factors into the calculations that adjust hospitals’ Medicare reimbursements every year.

But the accuracy of BLS’ surveys relies on strong hospital participation. The agency visits about 400 hospitals for its price surveys – and needs to maintain that level to ensure that it continues to represent the real pricing picture for hospital services. Given its importance, hospitals should strongly support the CPI’s hospital program and its efforts to get strong reliable data that can benefit the field. Getting sound hospital data in the CPI is critical to hospitals’ efforts to secure fair and accurate Medicare reimbursement and ensure the accuracy of the hospital marketbasket.

Learn how you can support the agency’s hospital surveys by clicking on:
http://tinyurl.com/ky9naj2. Or e-mail BLS economist Fahad Fahimullah at fahimullah.fahad@bls.gov.