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Hospitals, Home Health Care Services Lobby Against Cuts In Deficit Deal

By Mary Agnes Carey

November 15th, 2012, 6:02 AM

As lawmakers and President Barack Obama discuss possible changes to federal entitlement programs as part of a larger deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, expect provider groups to make their case loud and clear: Don’t cut us.

Photo by Karl Eisenhower/KHN

The American Hospital Association is circulating a list of alternatives that are well-known and included in other deficit-reduction plans, such as raising Medicare’s eligibility age, “modernizing” cost-sharing for Medicare and Medicaid and taxing junk foods and sugary drinks.

“Providers already face billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid payment cuts” and additional reductions could jeopardize beneficiaries’ access to care, according to the document. “True entitlement reform and approaches to change the health care delivery system are needed – not provider cuts,” it states.

The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare is also weighing in with a report to remind lawmakers that home health services save Medicare money because beneficiaries are cheaper to care for at home. Requiring cost-sharing for home health services would add to the financial burden seniors already face for housing, food, health care and other costs, and may mean that seniors skip physician-prescribed home health care, the group says. “Some could end up in more expensive institutional settings,” the report states.

Former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., a senior counsel to the home care group, said seniors already have “big skin in the game” when it comes to paying for their Medicare. “Just ask them. They’ll tell you.”

While hospitals, home health agencies and other Medicare providers don’t like the idea they’ll face further cuts as part of the deficit reduction plan, other groups are recommending  just that as part of their plans to cut the deficit.

On Wednesday, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, released a plan that calls for hospitals, drug companies, home health providers and others to lose billions in Medicare funding over the next decade.

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