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December 21, 2012

Hospitals feel poised precariously on fiscal cliff

PLATTSBURGH — Potential budget cuts caused by the looming fiscal cliff could have devastating effects on the region’s hospitals, including the loss of major programs those facilities provide to communities.

Representatives from Adirondack Health, CVPH Medical Center and Elizabethtown Community Hospital met with local media Thursday afternoon to express their concerns about the current deficit-reduction negotiations in Washington, D.C., that they say could spell disaster to rural health care.

“It’s depressing,” said Adirondack Health President and Chief Executive Officer Chandler Ralph.

Her take on the talks in Washington is that government seems to be targeting rural health care as a fix to the nation’s fiscal crisis.

“Health care is such a basic fundamental right for people in the community, but it’s so easy for them to cut payments to hospitals.”

If the nation’s political leaders cannot avoid the approaching fiscal cliff at the end of the year, health-care providers in the North Country would be hit with a potential $432 million in cuts over the next 10 years. In 2013 alone, Medicare cuts could add an additional $11 million in lost revenue for the region’s hospitals.

“We have all faced difficult times over the past 12 to 18 months,” CVPH President and Chief Executive Officer Stephens Mundy said.

Area hospitals, he noted, have already had to make major sacrifices by restructuring programs and reducing staff numbers.

“If these cuts come, we will have to look at programs. When we receive significantly less money than it costs to provide services, then something has to give.”

The most vulnerable services will be those whose reimbursement levels do not reflect the true cost of providing care, including such programs as dialysis, chemotherapy and obstetrics.

‘MOST HORRIFIC CUTS’

The region’s hospitals and nursing homes already expect $320 million in funding cuts over the next 10 years as part of the Affordable Care Act and other decreases in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

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