AHA, NNU Pan Debt Ceiling Proposal

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , August 2, 2011

The American Hospital Association and National Nurses United are criticizing the $2.4 trillion debt ceiling and deficit reduction package that they believe could mean hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other safety net programs.

The House passed the deficit reduction package bill by a 269-161 vote Monday evening. It is expected to clear the Senate Tuesday.

"America's hospitals find it difficult to support a debt ceiling proposal that could negatively affect Medicare for our nation's seniors," AHA President Rich Umbdenstock said in a prepared statement.  "Hospitals have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to accept shared sacrifice and do what is best for our country, but our first commitment is to patients, whose access to care could be curtailed by further cuts to Medicare funding for hospital care."

The proposal Congress approved Monday is expected to slash about $2.4 trillion from the national debt from 2012 through 2021. About $917 billion in cuts would be identified in the budget process, and $1.5 trillion in reductions would be found by a special, 12-member, bicameral, bipartisan commission. That committee would meet later this year, and its recommendations would be subject to a single up-or-down vote in the House and Senate.  

Medicaid and Medicare are not expected to be impacted in the first round of cuts, but they are expected to be targeted by the 12-member committee, which has yet to be named.

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