Every few months, my husband and I go through and balance our budget. It’s not a favorite activity for either of us, but now with our new baby we have to find new and creative ways to keep our costs low so we can stay in the black. We tend to cut down on unnecessary items, like magazine subscriptions or entertainment, and I hate to say it, but charitable donations. What we wouldn’t dream of cutting is the money we put aside for healthcare.
Our family’s prudent approach to budget cuts isn’t necessarily a reflection of what the government does when it makes budget cuts, evidenced by the recently released “chairman’s mark” preliminary report. Created by the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, this not yet final report (and considered by many to be just a starting point) makes recommendations for how to reduce the nation’s debt.
To reduce the national debt by $4 trillion by 2020, the report recommends trimming 58 programs including defense and space exploration, Social Security and, naturally, Medicare and Medicaid. Certainly a lot of programs are going to take a knock if the recommendations in this report are approved, but these recommendations may just financially weaken healthcare beyond repair, and delay the sought after quality of care improvements.
As it stands, many CFOs have already trimmed the fat from their budgets over the last three years. They’ve renegotiated supplier contracts, payer contracts, joined group purchasing organizations, and cut length of stay. If that weren’t enough, they along with the CEO and hospital board took heat for making personnel cuts to help buoy the bottom line and keep their hospital’s doors open. While they’ve watch their staff numbers dwindle in the name of financial viability, the number of uninsured and underinsured patients has steadily risen, as have their Medicare and Medicaid populations (though healthcare reform may address this in the future).