Sanders Warns of Cuts in Federal Health Care Spending

06/11/02 12:00AM



(Host) Congressman Bernard Sanders warns that Vermont hospitals and health care providers are threatened by cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. Sanders says Congress must act to restore money to these two federal health programs. He says that the federal government fails to cover the full cost of care, and that means hospitals often lose money on Medicare patients.

According to Sanders, when the government doesn't adequately fund its health programs, the costs are shifted to people with private insurance:

(Sanders) "In the United States today, health care costs are soaring. Cost shifting is in epidemic proportions and the Congress has got to own up to its responsibilities. We cannot give huge tax breaks to billionaires and then say to the elderly, say to low income people, say to hospitals, say to ¿ home health care agencies and nursing homes that there's no money available for you."

(Host) Vermont hospital officials estimate that Medicare pays for 92 cents for every dollar of patient care. Medicaid ¿ which is funded by both the state and the federal government ¿ covers just 70 cents per dollar of health care costs.

Bea Grause is the president of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. She says that the pending budget cuts will lead to another $9 million reduction in Medicare payments.

(Grause) "The cost shift... is a cumulative result of payment shortfalls over time. So the $9 million in anticipated cuts would just add to that. So it's really just another year worth of payment shortfalls, just going backwards instead of going forward to close that gap. It just makes the gap larger and larger over time."

(Host) Sanders has co-sponsored several bills that would restore the federal cuts and would help hospitals in rural areas.

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