President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request – set for release on Feb. 9 – should protect access to health care services for seniors and the disabled by not including any further hospital payment reductions under Medicare, the AHA last week wrote the president.

“With total payment reductions to hospitals approaching $158 billion since 2010, including more than $62.7 billion in Medicare sequestration cuts, many hospitals are at a breaking point in their ability to ensure patients have access to the care they need, when they need it,” AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack wrote in a Jan. 27 letter to the president.

Pollack said it is time for policymakers and health care stakeholders to work together toward long-term solutions that “set Medicare on a path toward future sustainability and protect the promise of care for our nation’s seniors.” He said payment cuts that simply reduce funding for hospital services should not be part of that effort, and he asked the president to “refrain from including such cuts in your FY 2017 budget submission.”

In the letter to the president, Pollack noted that “hospitals are working to make health care more affordable through innovations in care delivery focused on improving population health, increasing quality and efficacy of care, and better managing transitions across the care continuum.”

 

Extra incentive for states to expand Medicaid.The White House last month announced that the president’s budget will propose that Congress give any state that expands Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the same three years of full federal support and gradual phase down that states expanding in 2014 received, no matter when the state takes up the option.

“This common-sense proposal makes the expansion as good a deal for states that expand now as it is for the states that have already done so,” White House officials said. “It is further evidence of the Administration’s willingness to work with states to build on recent progress in improving health coverage and making Medicaid affordable to states and taxpayers alike. We hope Congress will act to provide this extra incentive to states that haven’t yet expanded, encouraging them not to miss out on the benefits other states are already enjoying.”

So far, 31 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

 

Final budget request. The FY 2017 budget request will be the last of President Obama’s tenure. It is expected to adhere to the discretionary spending limits codified as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act, P.L 114-74, which was enacted in November. Under that blueprint, caps on defense and nondefense programs largely remain frozen between current FY 2016 levels and FY 2017.

The release of the president’s budget will kick off the FY 2017 budget and appropriations process, which is expected to begin soon in the House. House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., intends to mark up a budget resolution this spring.