Hospitals blast budget deal, 'doc fix' patch

Hospitals are blasting the two-year budget deal and temporary "doc fix" proposal for targeting them for additional spending cuts.

The deal announced Tuesday night by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would extend scheduled reductions to Medicare providers for two additional years, through 2023.

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A proposed short-term "doc fix," meanwhile, would prevent a 20 percent pay cut to physicians by extending cuts to set to hit hospitals that serve primarily uninsured patients.

The reductions to so-called disproportionate share hospitals are currently scheduled to begin next year and last through 2022. Under the "doc fix" proposal, the cuts would begin in 2016 but last through 2023, raising about $4 billion.

The patch would also introduce site-neutral payments for some services performed in long-term care hospitals, lowering the hospitals' revenue.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) criticized both proposals as a threat to quality patient care and suggested that Congress was avoiding a "serious conversation" about entitlement reform.

"Hospitals face a huge array of change and challenges," said AHA Senior Vice President Tom Nickels in a statement. "From electronic health records to new penalty programs and payment models to new regulatory hurdles, Congress should support these efforts rather than add uncertainty."