Budget cuts 'devastating' to healthcare services, jobs

Most of the headlines about the federal budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday focus on the big tax cuts pushed and won by the GOP.

But U.S Rep. William Keating said there's another budget story to be told, one that impacts thousands of Cape and Islanders and their health care. The budget cuts half a trillion dollars from the Medicare program for people age 65 and over and $1.4 trillion from Medicaid, the government subsidized health care program for people with lower incomes, Keating said.

The net effect is to do what Republicans in Congress have been unable to do. which is to repeal the Affordable Care Act. by defunding major parts of it. Keating said.

"This affects people." the Democratic congressman said Tuesday in a phone interview. "It's the most fundamental shift people have had in their health care security in decades."

There's no logical sense to taking an axe to health care. since it will reduce both services and jobs. Keating said.

"It's sort of a solution that cannibalizes itself." he said.

On the Cape and Islands. thousands of people are on Medicare and Medicaid. which in Massachusetts is known as MassHealth.

"It's almost like we're going to go backwards and have higher rates of uninsured and uncompensated care." said Karen Gardner. chief executive officer of the Community Health Center of Cape Cod. a nonprofit organization with offices in Mashpee and Bourne.

"It could unravel everything we've done to expand access." Gardner said. She has said that close to 5.000 CHCCC patients are on MassHealth. which statewide consumes 40 percent of the state budget.

Massachusetts health care reform under the Romney administration served as a model for the ACA. Keating said.

Some of the complaints about the ACA stem from the fact it has not prevented premiums and deductibles for private insurance from continuing to rise.

But Keating said the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid will result in insurance companies picking up the costs of uninsured people under the uncompensated care program — and passing those costs along to consumers in terms of higher deductibles and drug costs.

The slashing of subsidized health care "affects virtually every person and family in my district." Keating said.

Cape Cod Healthcare. the Cape's largest private employer. has said Medicare cuts will cost it $290 million over the next 10 years. Keating said.

(This article originally appeared in the Cape Cod Times. Read the full article by clicking here.)