Automatic federal budget cuts threaten N.H. health care jobs

It's not just defense industry-related jobs that are at stake if Congress does nothing to prevent the country from going over the "fiscal cliff." A newly released report says thousands of health care jobs also are at risk in New Hampshire alone. According to a report jointly released by the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association, some 2,337 New Hampshire jobs would be eliminated in the first year if automatic funding cuts are put in place as part of the federal debt-ceiling agreement reached earlier this year.

Under the deal, Congress agreed to more than $1 trillion in automatic widespread budget cuts that would go into effect if lawmakers didn't agree to a deal to reduce the national deficit by the end of 2012 — so-called budget sequestration.

The report, prepared by the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based consulting firm Tripp Umbach, estimates that, nationally, more than 496,000 jobs will be lost if the automatic cuts are triggered.

According to the report, the workers affected include those directly employed in the health care sector along with jobs supported by the purchases of health care organizations and their employees.

The cuts are scheduled to begin next year and continue until 2021, when the estimated job loss in the Granite State could reach more than 3,600, according to the report.

The cuts could be particularly onerous for New Hampshire's hospitals, said Hospital Association President Steve Ahnen.

"Hospitals in New Hampshire are still confronted with the challenge of $258 million in cuts to Medicaid that were enacted as part of the current state budget, and drastic cuts at the federal level will only exacerbate those challenges for New Hampshire's hospitals and the patients and communities they serve," he said.

Ahnen called on the state's congressional delegation "to work with their colleagues to oppose proposals that will have a disproportionate impact on our hospitals and the patients and communities they serve."

Members of New Hampshire's congressional delegation have already united in calling for action on automatic sequestration before it actually takes effect, at least when it comes to defense cuts. They all appeared earlier this month at a rally with BAE Systems employees in Nashua to bring attention to what's expected to be $500 billion in cuts to the nation's defense budget alone.

According to a recent report by George Mason University, the defense cuts could mean more than 2 million defense-related jobs lost across the country, including 6,300 in New Hampshire.

Both 1st District Congressman Frank Guinta and 2nd District Congressman Charlie Bass as well as U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen voted in favor of the Budget Control Act, which contained the sequestration plan. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte voted against the measure.


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