You may be wondering if the struggle that is currently going on in Washington, D.C. over the decreasing the Nation’s debt will have an effect on health care in our local area. We are all watching as both sides of Congress appear to agree that taking action to raise the Federal Debt Ceiling before the August 2 deadline is imperative. We have been told that failure to raise the Debt Ceiling would push the U.S. into default on it’s existing financial obligations, which according to experts would have a catastrophic effect on our economy. The answer to the question, “will the Debt Ceiling struggle affect us locally?” is probably yes, given the fact that Medicare and Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California) comprise 20% of all Federal spending.
Earlier this week a list of 27 specific health care cuts were released by a “Deficit Reduction Group” led by Vice President Joe Biden. On the list is $14 billion in savings (over 10 years) for “Reform Rural Hospital Programs (Medicare).” Very few people outside of the Deficit Reduction Group know for sure what is included in that $14 billion cut. There is speculation that it includes a major cut in Critical Access Hospital spending. If this cut goes through, it is likely that thousands of critical access hospitals Nationwide, would no longer be financially viable and would close. Mendocino Coast District Hospital would be in jeopardy. The California Hospital Association has called for everyone that supports the protection of Medicare and Medi-Cal services, including employees, Board members, volunteers, and medical staff, as well as members of our community to please contact our Congressional Leaders and urge them to not add more cuts to hospitals. For Mendocino County that would include Congressman Mike Thompson and Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Some of you may know other Federal legislators as well. Please contact them today and urge them to protect our Nation’s hospitals especially our small, rural critical access hospitals. Thank you.