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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

A bad week for teaching hospitals

The last few days, administrators at teaching hospitals are probably wishing they’d just stayed in bed. First came word that, according to Medicare data, patients at their facilities are more likely than patients at other hospitals to suffer preventable complications.

And then the president announced his budget.

It proposes cuts of about $267 billion for Medicare and $52 billion for Medicaid over the next 10 years, with teaching hospitals likely to be among the hardest-hit providers. That’s because the budget would also slash funding for graduate medical education, including a $177 million hit to the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Payment Program.

Reaction from hospital associations and others was swift and negative:

  • “This budget would jeopardize the ability of teaching and children’s hospitals to train the next generation of physicians,” according to a statement from Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.
  • “Funding cuts to teaching hospitals—the places that train the nation’s doctors, nurses, and first responders—will worsen critical shortages of health care professionals at a time when another 32 million Americans will be entering the system as a benefit of the president’s own health care legislation, and an additional 15 million seniors will become eligible for Medicare. Such cuts would mean that up to 10,000 fewer physicians will be trained every year when the nation already faces a shortage of nearly 92,000 doctors in the next 10 years. Similarly, cuts to doctor training programs at the nation’s children’s hospitals (CHGME) will jeopardize the supply of pediatricians and pediatric specialists that all children need,” according to a statement from Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
  • “These cuts are shortsighted and would be counterproductive. Not only will they weaken the hospital safety net and reduce access for seniors and other vulnerable citizens, they also threaten the role that America’s hospitals play as the largest private employers and source of good, new jobs in most communities across the country,” according to a statement from the Federation of American Hospitals.
  • “Obama’s choice, apparently, is to nickel-and-dime programs like graduate medical education while ignoring the long-term solvency of entitlement programs and growing the size of the government overall,” according to an editorial in the Boston Herald.
Maybe we should all take a breath now. The budget’s a proposal, not a done deal, and the push-back from industry groups could well mitigate the damage to graduate medical education. Even so, it’s hard to imagine a scenario that doesn’t include hard times ahead for hospitals in general, and teaching hospitals in particular.