CHA: Ministry voices needed now to protect Medicare and Medicaid

November 15, 2011

As the congressional "super committee" charged with reducing the nation's debt continues its work, CHA is encouraging members to be vocal about protecting poor and vulnerable persons and ensuring that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains intact.

The super committee, a 12-member, bipartisan panel of lawmakers from the House and Senate, is working on a plan to lower the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. If the committee cannot reach agreement on such a plan before its Nov. 23 deadline, or if Congress does not adopt the committee's recommendations by the end of the year, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion will go into effect — half in defense spending and half in domestic, including a reduction in Medicare provider rates.

The super committee can consider any spending provisions or revenues to reach the deficit reduction goal, leaving both entitlement program cuts as well as tax increases on the table. Details of the super committee's plans remained murky and tightly held asCatholic Health World went to press. A CHA advocacy alert issued Oct. 31 cited a significant threat that "the Medicare and Medicaid programs and the people they serve could be subject to devastating cuts as part of a final agreement."

Given the possibility that the committee will recommend sizable cuts to these vital safety net programs, ministry advocacy is crucial, said Lisa Smith, CHA's senior director of government relations.

"While it is important to cut the deficit and be wise about future spending, we must not allow cuts to adversely affect the most vulnerable people in our nation," Smith said. "Especially as the economy continues to challenge many working and unemployed families, Congress needs to hear that if Medicare and Medicaid are cut — either for beneficiaries or providers — the human harm would far outweigh the economic benefit."

In the recent advocacy alert calling on members of the ministry to defend Medicare and Medicaid, CHA also highlights super committee proposals that would be damaging to health care providers and beneficiaries, including: eliminating the Medicaid provider taxes that help finance the program; reducing the

Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, or FMAP, which shifts costs to states; forcing dually eligible beneficiaries into Medicaid managed care; eliminating Medicare bad debt payments that offset losses from uncollectible co-pays and deductibles owed by low-income beneficiaries; reducing Medicare funding for graduate medical education; and eliminating special reimbursements to rural and small hospitals.

"The next few weeks are critical, and we urge everyone to contact their senators and representatives to keep up the pressure to protect Medicare and Medicaid," CHA's alert said. At its most recent meeting, held in September, CHA's board reaffirmed the ministry's commitment to protecting safety net programs and encouraged advocates to evaluate deficit reduction proposals through the lens of CHA's principles for health reform.

CHA also continues advocacy to defend and improve the Affordable Care Act, which could see funding for some of its provisions stripped or reduced by the super committee. In addition to ongoing legislative work and advocacy, CHA is active in several coalitions to protect safety net programs and the health reform law.


CHA joins others to promote and defend health reform

The Coalition to Protect America's Health Care, an alliance of national and state hospital groups including CHA, is running television and print ads to protect Medicare and Medicaid funding for hospital care. The ads can be viewed on the coalition's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/ProtectHealthcareTV.

To help inform the Catholic health ministry and general public about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, CHA earlier this year became a founding partner of the HealthCareandYou coalition. The coalition's website includes consumer-friendly, state-specific information to answer questions about the reform law and assist those in need of coverage information.

CHA staff encourages members and others to share the HealthCareandYou link on their websites, along with the www.YouTube.com/HealthReformWorks channel that profiles people who already have benefited from the Affordable Care Act.

"Personal stories are one of the best ways to demonstrate how this law works, how it protects people who would otherwise struggle for health care and how important it is that the ACA's coverage advances stay in effect," said Jeff Tieman, CHA's senior director, health reform initiatives.

 

Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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