Bill would exempt providers from automatic Medicare cuts

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Many long-term care providers feel they earned at least a moral victory late last month when the president's so-called debt-reduction “super committee” could not agree on recommendations. That meant nothing worse than automatic 2% across-the-board cuts could be imposed. Now, there may be a reprieve on the horizon from even the 2% cuts.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and six colleagues have introduced a bill that, if enacted, would exempt Medicare providers from the automatic cuts. Medicaid is already exempt from debt-reduction cuts.

The Towns bill (HR 3519) on Wednesday became the first formally proposed measure that would skirt the mandated cuts. Several Republican lawmakers also have said they are preparing mitigating proposals. Meanwhile, one large group of Democrats says it will urge President Obama to allow the cuts to take place. 

“We simply cannot balance the nation's budget on the backs of seniors, while simultaneously harming jobs,” said Towns, a senior Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He said that hospitals alone would lose $2.6 billion nationwide and thousands of healthcare-related jobs could be put in peril if the automatic cuts took place.

The 2% reductions are designed to help lop $1.2 trillion off the debt, starting in January 2013. The cuts would be in place from 2013 to 2021.