Providers slam Ryan's proposed cuts to insurance coverage

The 2012 GOP budget proposal would scrap the healthcare reform law's insurance subsidies while retaining the deep Medicare cuts that pay for them, sparking cries of outrage from providers.

A number of stakeholders, including hospitals and drug makers, had agreed to deep Medicare payment cuts under Democrats' law in exchange for the promise that 32 million Americans would be covered. The law also made $200 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program.

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The roadmap released Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would undo that expansion, while retaining hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts. That enables Ryan to claim $1.4 trillion in savings from repealing healthcare reform, but has left his budget open to attacks from stakeholders and Democrats.

"The coverage expansions are rescinded, but the cuts remain," American Hospital Association President and CEO Rich Umbendstock told The Hill. "The two were coupled in healthcare reform... It's unacceptable if just the cuts stand."

Ryan argues that his proposal would strengthen Medicare by reinvesting healthcare reform's savings into the program instead of using them to pay for expanding coverage to more people.

"Any current-law Medicare savings must go to saving Medicare," the roadmap reads, "not financing the creation of new open-ended health-care entitlements."

Democrats meanwhile were quick to criticize the GOP for embracing a budget that retains Medicare cuts that Republicans have lambasted ever since healthcare reform was enacted.

"They've taken those savings - the same ones that they’ve criticized - in their plan," said Budget Committee ranking member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "(...) The healthcare reforms enacted in the Affordable Care Act, which they say they're repealing, they're not repealing at all."

Hospitals had agreed to $155 billion in Medicare cuts over a decade because healthcare reform promised to reduce the number of nonpaying patients. If just the cuts stand, Umbenstock said, "it's straight off the hospitals' revenue (and) not something we think is feasible."

The Federation of American Hospitals (FAH) raised similar concerns.

"The combined effect of dropping the new coverage and maintaining the cuts threatens the care that communities depend on," FAH President and CEO Chip Kahn said in a statement, "and will place harsh limits on the very health care providers who are frequently the most significant job creators in their local communities."

Jason Millman contributed