"We experienced that with the budget deal back in December, where one of the main 'pay fors' was extending that sequester for two years in 2022 and 2023. There seems to be a pattern here which is very disturbing. Obviously using healthcare dollars to pay for other programs continues to be a dangerous precedent and we can't really afford, and our patients can't afford, Congress to continue to use Medicare as a piggy bank to pay for other programs."
In addition, Nickels says the AHA wants to extend the life of several funding sources that expire in the coming months, including the low-volume hospital adjustment, and the Medicare-dependent hospital program.
SGR Patch Expires in March
The three-month fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate Funding formula that Congress passed in December expires on March 31. That means that lawmakers will have to scramble again to find a way to cover the revenues needed to pay for it.
"That is the deadline for Congress to try to put together a permanent fix, a permanent repeal of SGR. That provides both risks and opportunities," Nickels says. "On the risk side, clearly if they have to come up with reductions to pay for that, even though the amount that they will need is less than had been predicted just a little over a year ago, that is still problematic if they have to find those savings in the Medicare program."