Providers critical of Trump budget, which would cut Medicare, kill AHRQ, slash IT agency

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LeadingAge CEO Katie Smith Sloan is among the healthcare advocates lining up against Trump budget
LeadingAge CEO Katie Smith Sloan is among the healthcare advocates lining up against Trump budget

President Donald Trump has unveiled his spending priorities for 2019, releasing a budget that would eliminate 22 programs and agencies — including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality — and dramatically reduce funding for others.

“While the document's language suggests support to Medicaid and Medicare, details to back up that claim are lacking,” criticized LeadingAge CEO Katie Smith Sloan in a statement Monday. “What we do know: The budget proposes Medicaid per capita caps and block grants, which LeadingAge continues to oppose.

“[The budget] also proposes cuts to Medicare, which can have negative consequences for beneficiaries and providers and threaten important community supports funded under the Older Americans Act.”

Congress isn't bound to accept any of the president's recommendations, but they make clear his spending priorities. So even though many of the proposals are dead on arrival, the attitude out of the White House is still a major problem, Sloan said.

“The President's budget prioritizes cuts to programs important to older adults,” she said. “LeadingAge is deeply concerned about the future of affordable senior housing, as the request seeks to cut HUD by more than 18% compared to FY17-enacted funding. It would reduce funding for HUD's senior-specific housing program, and deeply cut the voucher program as well as phase out the nation's public housing program.”

As for AHRQ, it has faced major budget threats before, including talk of elimination. The agency studies ways to make healthcare more efficient. Its work, ranging from infection control collaboratives to pressure ulcer turning protocols, is widely used by long-term care providers.

Given the pressure to develop and share data about patients and healthcare strategies, skilled nursing facilities also have come to rely on the the Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Trump's budget would drop ONC's funding from $60 million in fiscal 2017 to $38 million in fiscal 2019.

Under Trump's plan, the ONC would still coordinate health IT policy and set certification standards, but would no longer work on EHR adoption.

Overall, federal health information technology efforts would be slashed by 36%, Bloomberg News reported.

The plan also calls for an Obamacare repeal and a 21% budget decrease at HHS for 2019, versus 2017. The spending totals $4.4 trillion and would add $7 trillion to deficits over a decade.