The most immediate concerns are the Medicaid cuts that almost every state government has imposed on their providers. In the past few months, media outlets have been full of stories about hospital layoffs—some of them involving hundreds of employees—acquisitions, mergers, or outright closures that were prompted by financial distress that hospital leaders often directly attribute to Medicaid cuts.
Even more ominous is this new 12-member, bipartisan Congressional “super committee” that will meet later this year to whack $1.5 trillion from the budget. Lawmakers insist that “everything” will be on the table and considered, and that includes Medicare, Medicaid, and other safety-net programs.
If this were all a one-shot deal, perhaps hospitals and other providers could be expected to take the hit and move on. However, it is becoming painfully obvious that the first recourse of many elected officials at the state and federal level is to cut safety-net programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Causing more uncertainty is the speculation that we are on the cusp of—if not already in—a double-dip recession. The recent stock market dive has evaporated considerable wealth for a lot of folks, including healthcare providers. The last time the market crashed in 2008, it prompted a lot of workers to delay retirement because they couldn’t afford it. Will that happen again?
At some point, regardless of what the stock market does, these folks will have to retire. They may have to adjust to a lower standard of living, but they aren’t getting younger.