Not because this is a leap year and February has 29 days as opposed to 28 but because the future of health care as we know it lies in the balance.
That temporary agreement Congress reached just before the holidays — on the Social Security payroll tax holiday, emergency unemployment insurance benefits, Medicare physician payment rates and a host of health care “extenders” – runs out at the end of February. Congressional conferees are looking for ways to pay for a longer-term extension, and that puts further cuts to payments for hospital services right back on the table. Hospitals are united on two points: strong support for eliminating planned Medicare cuts to physicians, and strong opposition to doing that by reducing payments to hospitals.
Physicians are looking at a 27% reduction in reimbursement if a fix isn’t put into place and I do not believe congress will let that happen, it would be devastating to the provision of health care in our country. The problem is maintaining physician payments at current levels and providing for future increases is expensive and if you haven’t noticed our country has a debt problem and we’re not flush with cash. A popular solution before congress is to “steal from Peter to pay Paul” – take money from hospitals to offset the payment fix for physicians.
Hospitals like ours, hospitals that are Medicare dependent and serve a vulnerable population can not survive further cuts. Please consider contacting your congressional leader and urge him/her to work hard to solve the physician payment problem but make sure they know they can’t do it at the expense of hospitals, especially rural hospitals.
Solving the physician pay problem is important but physicians will have a hard time being effective if hospitals go away as a result.