Medicare cuts take effect at Memorial

Herald Staff Writer

As a result of the sequester, doctors at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper will be seeing about $800,000 less in annual Medicare reimbursements. While few, if any short-term changes are expected, the cuts could have a long-term impact, hospital spokesman John Dillon said.

Of the $85 billion in spending cuts triggered by the sequester, $11 billion has been cut from Medicare, or 2 percent of its $560 billion budget. The cuts took effect Monday and come from payments made to providers, like the doctors at Memorial.

Americans who are either 65 years or older or who have disabilities, Lou Gehrig’s Disease or end-stage renal disease are guaranteed health insurance by Medicare. Medicaid, a health program for low-income adults and their children and people with certain disabilities, is unaffected by the sequester.

As to how the cuts will affect Memorial specifically, Dillon said that the cuts represent a loss of about $800,000 annually. He emphasized that patient care would remain unchanged.
No patients will be turned away as a result of the Medicare cuts, he said. No employees will be laid off because of the cuts, either.

“We’re certainly not going to be laying anybody off because of that, but we will be seeing less money coming in from Medicare as a result of the sequester,” he said.

The decrease in funding could have a greater impact on long-term decisions like when to replace equipment, Dillon said.

Other medical facilities nationwide have reacted more severely. Cancer clinics in particular are facing major cuts from their federal reimbursements for administering and storing expensive chemotherapy drugs for Medicare patients.

Many are adjusting by turning away patients. According to The Washington Post, cancer clinics have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients in the wake of the sequester. On Tuesday, the North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York decided they would no longer see a third of their 16,000 Medicare patients.  If the Medicare cuts remain in place, the federal government is estimated to save $123 billion from 2013 to 2021.

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