Debt Default Could Impact Health Care

Congress is negotiating trillions of dollars in budget cuts as a condition for authorizing a raise in the debt ceiling.  The deadline for the raise is August 2nd and, according to the Treasury Department, if the raise is not approved, the U.S. will not be able to pay off its debt obligations.

How does this affect the health care field?  A debt ceiling agreement needs to be reached by the deadline in order to avoid a suspension of funding for the millions of patients who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health care programs.  A government cash flow shortfall would become a critical and potentially fatal cash flow shortfall for physician practices and care centers, causing layoffs and limiting how many Medicare and Medicaid patients can be seen.  Under these circumstances, some practices may have to close their doors for good.

Earlier this month, the American Nurses Association (ANA) sent a letter to lawmakers in the House and Senate, asking them to oppose the budget proposals that would lead to drastic cuts in these federal programs.

In particular, cuts to Medicaid would increase the number of uninsured and would threaten the viability of nursing homes, hospitals and other necessary providers.  Other consequences of cutting Medicaid include crowded emergency departments, delaying the diagnosis of life-threatening diseases and an increase in spending on otherwise preventable health complications.

Lawmakers need to rise above partisan politics and realize that the decisions they make about health care programs can have serious consequences.  Hopefully, before August 2nd, lawmakers will move to protect these vital programs and the vulnerable elderly, disabled and poor Americans they serve.

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