The health care debate has most recently been focused on Medicare. Some would have you believe the proposed cuts to Medicare in the Senate health care reform bill will have no impact on services or benefits. They will try to convince you the cuts will simply eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse of the system. Unfortunately, this is not true: these cuts will compromise care and access to services. You cannot siphon $466 billion from Medicare to help fund a new government entitlement program without having a real impact on Americans who rely on the current one.
Last week, I hosted a video teleconference with Medicare providers throughout Nebraska, all of whom outlined exactly how these cuts to Medicare would impact Nebraskans. Ninety-three million dollars will be cut from Nebraska nursing homes. Our hospitals will see a loss of $910 million. Sixty-two million dollars will be cut from Nebraska hospices.
One area that will be hit particularly hard is Nebraska home health services, which are set to see $120 million in cuts. Home health plays a crucial role in our state's health care system. Home health nurses and therapists drive many miles every day to serve elderly and disabled patients who are unable to leave their homes. One-hundred thirty-five home health agency facilities currently operate in our state, serving Nebraskans with a variety of ailments. Home health providers in Cherry County are currently caring for a patient awaiting a heart transplant and another who recently lost a leg from complications of diabetes. Across the country, these are the Americans targeted to make sacrifices in the name of government health care. Imagine what would happen to them if home health services are no longer offered. Not to mention the fact that home health services deliver services at a fraction of the costs of hospital and nursing home care, which will be the only alternative if home health cuts drive providers out of business.
Last week, I introduced an amendment to eliminate the cuts to home health services. The Senate had previously agreed on a unanimous yet non-binding vote to protect home health, but when the time came to pass my binding amendment, the votes disappeared. The Senate, largely on party lines, failed to protect home health. While the government increases its role in our economy, creates another expensive and expansive entitlement program, and levies taxes and mandates upon all of us, those patients most in need will bear the burden.
The message is simple: don't erase access, services, and benefits for our most vulnerable Americans. Health care reform is important, but when it comes to cutting billions of dollars from home health, hospices, nursing homes, and hospitals, which even today struggle to provide care for the elderly and the disabled, we must find another way. Robbing these Americans of the care they deserve is not true reform.