KHI News Service

Hospital association calls delegation’s attention to spending cuts’ toll

By Dave Ranney | December 21, 2012

The Kansas Hospital Association is urging the state’s Congressional delegation to “protect” hospitals’ Medicare and Medicaid payments during the deficit-reduction negotiations now going on in Washington, D.C.

The association last week sent delegation members an email that included a three-minute video that, in part, warned that “already struggling” hospitals may be forced to close their doors while others may have to eliminate jobs or reduce services in areas like emergency care and women’s and children’s care due to Medicare rate reductions in the Affordable Care Act and automatic budget cuts if fiscal-cliff negotiators are unable to come to an agreement by the end of the year.

Medicare rates are vital to rural doctors and hospitals that serve large numbers of people age 65 and older.

The video is narrated by a woman who introduces herself as Gale, a nurse at one of the 127 hospitals in Kansas.

“Reducing the amount Kansas hospitals get paid for caring for Kansas’ poor, disabled, and aging residents will limit access to care for everyone,” she says. “As a nurse I know this will not serve my patients well, and as a Kansan I know this will not serve my state well.”

She goes on to say that the proposed cuts in spending would cost Kansas hospitals $1.3 billion over the next 10 years.

“With less money, hospitals will be forced to spend less on programs to improve community health like free clinics, screenings, and support groups,” says the narrator. “In many communities if hospitals stopped providing these services, no one else would. People would have to travel farther for care, creating longer wait times and delaying critical care for everybody.”

Cindy Samuelson, a spokesperson for the hospital association, said the video was produced to educate Kansans so that they could relay their concerns to their members of Congress.

“Not everyone really knows the impact this has on hospitals, specifically in our state,” Samuelson said.

One member of the Kansas congressional delegation has found himself at the center of the budget controversy in Washington.

First District Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp is among a group of House conservatives that are claiming credit for blocking efforts by Speaker John Boehner to compromise with President Obama on tax increases for wealthy Americans.

"Republicans should not be forced to vote for a 'show' bill that asks us to compromise on our principles," Huelskamp said, referring to “back up” legislation that Boehner tried and failed to convince the House to approve on Thursday.

"For the last two years, the agenda has been 1) to end job-killing tax hikes and 2) to foster economic growth for revenue,” he said. “Plan B' abandons those goals – and our convictions right alongside them.”

Also this week, the Kansas Head Start Association announced that spending cuts in Plan B are expected to result in 757 low-income children, ages birth to 5, being dropped from the state’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Combined, the two programs serve currently almost 8,900 children.

More than 150 Head Start and Early Head Start employees, too, would be laid off.

“The impending cuts create a tremendous hardship on families who need the services Head Start offers,” Lori Alvarado, Executive Director of the Kansas Head Start Association, said.

“Head Start services mean the difference between parents continuing their education or employment,” she said. “Without care for their children, parents who have been striving for self-sufficiency could find themselves in even greater need.”

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