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Perilous time

October 11, 2013


As the government shutdown nears the end of its second week, a second major deadline – raising the federal debt ceiling – is fast approaching. Congressional Republicans are talking to the president about ways to reopen the federal government and increase the federal debt ceiling for a few weeks to allow for negotiations on larger deficit-reduction issues (see story on page 1).

Congress must raise the debt ceiling, the legal limit on borrowing by the federal government, before the end of the month to prevent the nation from defaulting on its financial obligations. And a third deadline – fixing physician payments – must be addressed by the end of the year.

These fiscal flashpoints make the weeks and months ahead a perilous time for the hospital field. Many hospitals are straining under the weight of substantial Medicare and Medicaid cuts imposed by state and federal policymakers in recent years. The field has absorbed more than $250 billion in reductions since 2010.

So what can we expect if the debate over raising the nation’s debt limit leads to policy changes that cut funding again for the services you provide under Medicare and Medicaid? Longer wait times for care; fewer doctors, nurses and other caregivers; and less access to the latest treatments and technology. The 24/7 standby role of America’s hospitals will be put in jeopardy as never before.

Enough is enough. We’re asking legislators to reject funding cuts and provide relief from excessive and harmful regulations that undermine hospitals’ ability to care.

That’s why we are pushing Congress to act on legislation that includes the “DSH Reduction Relief Act,” H.R. 1920/S. 1555, which eliminates the first two years of planned cuts to disproportionate share hospital payments; and the “Medicare Audit Improvement Act,” H.R. 1250/S. 1012, which reins in overly aggressive Medicare auditors; as well as legislation to help ensure financially vulnerable small and rural hospitals can maintain their patients’ access to care. We’re also seeking relief from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ controversial “two-midnight” admissions rule, which creates new economic challenges for hospitals.

Tough choices must be made to get our nation’s fiscal house in order, and hospitals are doing their part. But when hospitals can no longer keep their promise of care that’s always there, patients and families lose.