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Federal Debt Commission Makes Unrealistic Recommendations

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, November 15, 2010

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).

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2 comments on "Federal Debt Commission Makes Unrealistic Recommendations"


tkerr (11/16/2010 at 1:51 PM)
Everybody wants to go to heaven and nobody wants to die! A larger problem than cutbacks in healthcare payments to providers is the looming finacial train wreck if we dont reduce our deficit. Every group that is targeted, defense, farming, healthcare etc. will scream but EVERYONE must take a hit if we are to restore sanity to our fiscal policy. Suck it up and do better with less is the new reality for all Americans.

rswift (11/15/2010 at 11:10 PM)
I think the commission co-chairs did a pretty good job with their recommendations. Unfortunately, everyone thinks that there is an area that cannot be cut - be it health care, defense or farm subsidies. The reality of our healthcare system is that we are spending more per capita than every other country and with lower outcomes, have nothing to show for it. I agree that the answer is not ONLY unit cost reductions, but instead it requires a fundemental change in how we finance and pay for care. None of us may like the fee cuts, but to date nothing else has forced us to change the way we pay for & deliver care.