We learn in the January 31st New York Times that President Bush is prepared to slash funding for hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, emergency medical services and home care providers in the new budget he will send to Congress next week. His proposal represents another volley in the Republican Right's continued assault on the institutions that provide medical care for America's families. In all the reckless and misguided actions of this failed presidency, few will have consequences as serious as these massive budgets cuts, which will reduce medical services for seriously ill Americans and increase medical costs for America's working families.
The president's plan is the wrong prescription for what ails America's failing health care system. If President Bush and his allies have their way, America's hospitals would lose $15 billion in an across-the-board cut in annual funding for patient care. He'd cut $25 billion more from hospitals that treat the poor. He would slash $20 billion in funds hospitals rely on for needed construction and to purchase life-saving equipment for patients. Bush would also reduce funding for teaching hospitals by $23 billion over the next 5 years.
Tragically, the President is pushing these reckless cuts despite the advice of every competent medical expert in America, including the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. His deadly decision-making is typical of his presidency, which has been consistently defined by his failure to listen to knowledgeable experts while relying on the advice of cronies who continually seek to provide windfalls to his campaign contributors and corporate allies. It's far from a coincidence that President Bush's proposed cuts are all designed to increase the costs of health care for average Americans while continuing to put millions of tax dollars into the hands of his supporters in the insurance industry. We can't let them succeed.
These are real cuts that will hurt real people. Here's what William A. Dombi of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice tells the Times what Bush's proposed cuts would do to programs that provide home health care services: "Under the proposal, 75 percent to 80 percent of home health agencies would be doomed." As many as 3 million American families rely on home health care services to care for loved ones who suffer from chronic conditions, or are in the last months of cancer, or have seriously disabled children at home. When those agencies close it will be much harder and far more expensive for families to find a nurse or health care professional to come to their home to provide vitally needed care.
What is even worse is the cynical plan the president and his allies have to ensure that their supporters in the insurance industry continue to rake in excessive dollars. While families would be hurt, under Bush's plan insurance companies will continue to benefit. His cuts would not touch the "Medicare Advantage" program that forks over billions in overpayments to private insurance companies to help them market plans to Medicare beneficiaries as an alternative to traditional Medicare. This so-called "advantage" costs taxpayers more than $16 billion a year to subsidize high-profit insurance companies who offer care that is often of a lower quality than with traditional Medicare providers.
The president's plan will not only require hospitals to cut back services, but it will reduce the quality of medical care for millions of families. It will shrink the number of doctors, nurses and medical care professionals at a time when demand is rising. It's an assault on the health care needs of millions of families. The Bush plan must be defeated. All of us have a role to play. Let your senators and representative know that you reject George Bush's proposal to increase the costs of medical care for millions of families. Tell them that the President's proposal will make it more difficult for families to receive the kind of high-quality care that they deserve. Tell them it is time to put a stop to the damage the President is doing to our already overburdened health care institutions.