Even before yesterday's official news that the congressional super-committee failed to come to an agreement on debt reduction, thus setting into motion a sequester mechanism triggering $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts in 2013 that includes 2 percent across-the-board Medicare cuts, there had been a looming sense in recent weeks and days of that conclusion. Unsurprisingly, the response from the health care field to the long-predicted news was swift. We've compiled a few of the immediate reactions to the news of so-called sequestration below:
In a statement, American Hospital Association President Rich Umbdenstock noted the negative impact the Medicare planned cuts will have on hospitals, and ultimately patient care:
"Sequestration means that arbitrary reductions in resources for patient care under Medicare will now be set to take effect under the law for the remainder of the decade. This will have an impact not just on the elderly and disabled beneficiaries of the program, but on their families. It will also have an impact on the ability of hospitals to provide essential public services to the communities they serve given the impact that Medicare has on the entire health care system. It is likely that Congress will reconsider whether this approach should take effect in January 2013 as required under current law. America's hospitals will work with Congress as these discussions continue."
Peter W. Carmel, M.D., president, American Medical Association, criticized the committee for missing out on an opportunity to "stabilize" Medicare for generations.
"The failure of the deficit committee forces our nation to continue on an unsustainable path that puts current and future generations of Americans at risk for harsh consequences. Congress set up processes and procedures that could have charted a course to put our nation's fiscal house in order. … Once again, Congress failed to stop the annual charade of scheduled Medicare physician payment cuts and short-term patches, which spends more taxpayer money to perpetuate a policy everyone agrees is fatally flawed."
For a broader look at the impact of yesterday's news, Kaiser Health News's coverage details how sequestration could impact varying providers in the years to come — from the impact of the Medicare cuts on hospitals to how reductions in appropriations funding could jeopardize everything from biomedical research to federal responses to disease outbreaks.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan nonprofit outfit whose members include former U.S. Sens. Chuck Robb and George Voinivich, had been urging the super-committee to "Go Big" in their strategies for identifying $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in savings. Committee President Maya MacGuineas expressed her disappointment:
"The United States is on a perilous debt course, and today's announcement does nothing to alter it," MacGuineas, said in a statement. "With offers and counteroffers that seemed to get smaller and smaller, lawmakers have proved that a 'Go Small' approach cannot solve the political obstacles to debt reduction."
Premier Inc. weighed in, arguing that delivery system reforms would ultimately be more effective in generating savings than across-the-board cuts would:
"Premier believes there are better approaches to controlling healthcare spending, including measures that will accelerate savings through delivery system reforms. In particular, Premier strongly recommends that Congress recognize participants in shared savings and bundled payment programs for efforts to reduce spending, and to count any costs eliminated through these programs as a way to satisfy the sequestration requirement. Such a policy would reduce federal spending and simultaneously encourage providers to participate in these programs, which represent the best hope for overcoming today's siloed payment systems that incent waste, inefficiency, variation and over-use."
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