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More than 750,000 jobs could be lost if sequester of Medicare spending pans out

Two — a modest number, easily gained, easily lost.

[See also: Medicare stable until 2024, trustees report ]

Seven hundred and sixty-six thousand — far from modest and even further from easy.

Their displacement typically keeps such sums apart, but on the rare occasion, they’ll grace an unfortunate equation, forcing organizations and industries to do some hard math to reinstate balance.

A new report released by the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Nurses Association (ANA) presents one such reckoning, so potentially devastating to the future of healthcare employment all sectors are unnerved. According to Tripp Umbach analysts, up to 766,000 healthcare and related jobs could be eliminated come 2021 as a result of a 2 percent sequester of Medicare spending sanctioned by the Budget Control Act of 2011.  

[See also: Medicare 'resource reports' arrive for 20,000 physicians]

"This new report shows that the sequester of Medicare spending will lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs," said AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD, in a news release. "Coupled with the looming 27 percent Medicare physician payment cut, this 2 percent sequester will hurt patient access to care and will inject more uncertainty into our Medicare system. We need stability in Medicare physician payment as we work to improve our nation's Medicare payment and delivery system to promote high-quality, high-value, better-coordinated care to our patients."

Report predictions claim that Medicare reductions will lead directly to job losses across the healthcare spectrum; a significant reduction in purchases made on behalf of healthcare entities for goods and services from other businesses; and a decrease in household purchases made by laid-off workers.

When jobs are cut from healthcare, the prosperity of the surrounding communities also faces the chopping block.

"Hospitals' ability to maintain the kind of access to services that their communities need is being threatened," said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock. "Cuts to hospital services could create devastating job losses in communities where hospitals have long been an economic mainstay."

The issues at the very core of healthcare — patient care, care coordination, widespread well-being — are also at stake if the sequester succeeds, the report implies. 

"Nurses have always strived to put patients at the center of a healthcare system that emphasizes prevention, wellness, and coordination of care, the kinds of services that experts agree are essential to not only improving the health status of patients, but also lowering overall healthcare costs," said ANA First Vice President Cindy R. Balkstra, MS, RN, CNS-BC. "Cutting Medicare spending in a way that eliminates healthcare jobs is an extremely short-sighted way to contain the high cost of healthcare."

It’s projected that some 496,000 jobs would be lost in the first year of the sequester and that such losses would spark more occupational reduction in other markets. State-by-state specifications found that California alone could eliminate 78,000 jobs because of the Medicare slash by 2021.

Given that healthcare has always been a mainstay in periods of economic strife — the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data found that 169,800 jobs were generated in the first half of 2012 due to healthcare — officials hope policymakers will reconsider the sequester. [See also: Medicare revalidation deadline extended]

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