Federal Budget Cuts Will Have Ripple Effect - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Federal Budget Cuts Will Have Ripple Effect

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - President Obama has ruled out signing a short-term extension of the federal debt ceiling insisting the time has come to tackle the nation's most pressing money problems. But many are concerned that could mean billions in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

On Monday, 30 health care agencies from across the state revealed plans to form a coalition to try and stop these cuts.

Even though firm budget numbers haven't been talked about yet, the Tennessee Disability Coalition believes if you look at the past, the disabled and seniors could be impacted the most.

One example is Dylan Brown. He has a full-time job, and even has good health insurance. But because of an accident 9 years ago he also needs Medicare.

"It takes care of prescription drug costs, and it keeps my co pays very low," Dylan said.

Dylan is concerned that ongoing budget cuts in Washington, which target Medicare spending, could mean his prescription drug benefits could be cut, which would cost him another $200 a month.

While no exact numbers and no final decisions have been made in D.C. local advocates said history could predict the future.

"Because if you really want to cut spending, you have to look at where the money is being spent," Carol Westlake with the Tennessee Disability Coalition said.

In the Medicaid program, most of the cash goes to long term care for seniors, and the chronically disabled.

Westlake said in the past patients who cost the most typically endure some of the cuts first.

"They have been about cutting people off the program, limiting the population of people served, or limiting benefits in a pretty draconian way," Westlake added.

With President Obama not giving up on a four trillion dollar deficit reduction plan, it's believed major cuts will be felt on the local level.

But getting a deal done, cutting costs, and still putting patients first is what the President needs to do, according to local health care advocates.

"Simply making cuts to the health care system sort of with a blunt instrument that says take money out, without taking a look at what really drives health care spending, we don't think will actually achieve savings," Westlake explained.

The coalition already believes major cuts could close some Tennessee hospitals.

For Vanderbilt University, dean of medicine Dr. Jeff Balser believes these cuts could impact two large programs. One program helps the hospital get back some of the money they spend on treating people for free. That program brings in about $80 million.

Vanderbilt is a teaching hospital, and cuts could force them to scale back their residency programs.

This could create problems in the long run because there is already a nationwide physician shortage.

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