Hospitals oppose deal to cut $155 billion

At least one local hospital executive says the nation’s hospitals cannot afford a $155-billion-cut to Medicare and Medicaid.

 The White House had called for slashing Medicaid and Medicare payments to hospitals by around $224 billion 10 years to help pay for health-care reform, but officials announced today that the target had been adjusted to to a more modest $155 billion.

About $100 billion in savings would come from slowing increases in planned Medicare payments to hospitals, while an additional amount would come from trimming money hospitals get for preventing patients from being readmitted for additional care.

The deal was intended to be a concession that would boost health care reform efforts that are stalled in Congress.

Margaret Sabin, CEO of Penrose-St. Francis Health Centers in Colorado Springs, said the cuts will come in the form of lower reimbursements to Medicare and Medicaid.

“The reimbursement rate will be dramatically lower,” she said. “We don’t have data to be more specific, so we’re just waiting to see what happens. Any reduction would be a difficult hit for us.”

Some hospitals could be forced to close, while the move will only create a larger cost-shift for other hospitals.

“It’s going to exacerbate what’s already happening – shifting the cost to people with insurance and insurance companies,” she said. “And people are getting tired of paying that extra cost.”

The move simply doesn’t make sense, she said, noting that the debate in Congress has focused on health insurance – but not on prevention.

“About 75 percent of disease is preventable,” she said. “So we’re going at this backward. We need to focus on prevention, on wellness.”