Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hospital Funding Cuts and Future Physician Hospital Employment

When men are employed, they are best contented, but on idle days they were mutinous and quarrelsome.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Autobiography(1731-1759)

January 21, 2012 – I am old enough to remember those days in Minneapolis in the 1980s and 1990s when managed care shut down half the hospital beds and left unemployed physicians in its wake, including me.

I am also old enough to recall those days in the late 1990s and early 2000s when hospitals acquired thousands of physician practices, lost a bundle of money on them, then let doctors loose to return to practice to fend for themselves.

I am young enough to know that hospitals are again employing physicians in record numbers, that young physicians, carrying heavy debts and craving balanced life styles, are flooding into hospital employment.

I am alert enough to know hospitals are a vibrant employment sector, having created 89,300 jobs in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I am smart enough to know that the hospital industry, facing an influx of 32 million federally-subsidized Medicare recipients in 2014 and a steady increase of roughly 4.5 million new Medicare eligible Baby Boomers each year until 2029, are feeling paranoid about Congress and hospital funding cuts.

The American Hospital Association says funding cuts now under consideration by Congress (HR3630) could cut hospital budgets by $61.4 billion over the next 10 years. These cuts, say the hospitals, would force hospitals to slash 278,000 jobs. The GOP Congress it seems, plans to take money from hospitals and use the money to cover the deficit created by extending the Social Security tax holiday and unemployment benefits and by applying the “doctor fix.”

How many of these projected 278,000 lost jobs would be physician jobs? If an “doc fix” indeed occurs, how many physicians will be able to remain in practice to see new Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries? How will short-staffed hospitals be able to care for the tsunami of new patients in gvenment programs?

These are unanswerable questions that boggle the mind. Answers depend on the health of the economy and on the June Supreme Court decision and the November election.

Tweet: The AHA says HR 3630, a bill now in Congress would cut hospitals by $61.4 billion and force hospitals to lay off 287,000 employees.

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