Hospitals blast proposed cut in jobless benefits debate

Hospital trade groups are pushing back against a proposal to pay for the extension of jobless benefits with another cut to Medicare providers.

The American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and America's Essential Hospitals argued Monday that extending some sequester cuts into 2024 would "jeopardize health services for seniors."

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"While we do not oppose the extension of [unemployment] benefits, we do oppose using Medicare reductions to pay for non-Medicare related spending," the groups wrote in a letter to senators.

"Medicare is meant to assure seniors' access to needed medical care, not serve as a piggybank for other programs."

Negotiations continue in the Senate about how to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.

The last round expired in December, and Democrats are hoping to entice Republicans to support a package that would renew them through November.

The sticking point is how to pay for the benefits. Republicans insist the legislation not add to the deficit, and a plan from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would pay for them by ending duplicate payments for unemployment and disability insurance.

The proposal would also cut the number of weeks benefits are paid to some and add another year of sequester cuts — the provision hospitals objected to Monday.

Republicans have accused Reid, however, of refusing to allow amendments to the emerging package.

The Nevada Democrat indicated on Twitter Monday that he would be open to a "reasonable" number of relevant amendments in a move that could move the process forward.

"If my Republican colleagues cant take yes for an answer, it will be blatantly obvious they never wanted to extend [unemployment insurance] in the first place," Reid tweeted.

The effort faces a much steeper climb in the Republican-controlled House, where legislators want to reform the unemployment insurance program in exchange for extending benefits.

Hospitals, for their part, said Monday that they already face $113 billion cuts that have been imposed over the last three years, and urged lawmakers to oppose Reid's plan.