Pennsylvania hospitals shed 3,900 jobs in the past year, according to the most recent employment statistics, and The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania says rougher terrain could be ahead if steps are not taken to stabilize the industry.
“Pennsylvania hospitals confront a changing and uncertain health care environment, mounting federal payment cuts, and an economy that is still struggling,” Andy Carter, HAP president and CEO, said in a news release. “As hospitals work to transform the delivery system, they need stability in federal Medicare and Medicaid payments in order to make needed improvements without jeopardizing Pennsylvanians’ access to health care.”
Carter urged Congress to extend support for rural hospitals and cautioned federal lawmakers not to use hospital payment cuts to fund much-needed reforms to the sustainable growth rate, the famously dysfunctional formula that sets Medicare physician payments.
He also called on the federal government to approve Pennsylvania’s Healthy Pennsylvania waiver, which proposes using Obamacare Medicaid expansion funds on a largely private alternative.
On the state level, he said the Corbett Administration’s proposed 2014–2015 state budget takes important steps toward providing hospitals with stability and predictability.
“We urge state lawmakers to preserve and protect hospital payments in the upcoming budget,” he said.
This month HAP surveyed 104 of the state’s 164 general acute care hospitals and reported that many hospitals have already done the following, or plan to: freeze hiring (67 percent), lay off current staff (49 percent), cancel or delay needed renovation or building projects (51 percent) and cut health care services (41 percent).
According to HAP, successive waves of federal budget actions have reduced hospital payments since 2010, and Medicare payment cuts from 2013 through the end of 2014 will cost them about $800 million. In all, Pennsylvania hospitals are expected to lose nearly $10 billion in Medicare payments over the next decade.
In addition, two Medicare policies (the Medicare-Dependent Small Rural Hospital program and Low-Volume Hospital Adjustment) crucial to the fiscal viability of Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals are set to expire on Monday.
HAP is a statewide membership services organization that advocates for nearly 240 Pennsylvania acute and specialty care, primary care, subacute care, long-term care, home health, and hospice providers, as well as the patients and communities they serve.