Medicare, Medicaid crisis reflected in local job losses
The announcement that Mountain View: A Nursing and Rehabilitation Center will lay off 23 employees next month from its housekeeping and laundry staff is certainly bad news, but it comes as no surprise.
It has a lot to do with the nation's Medicare and Medicaid crisis, of which politicians say much but do little. That crisis is eventually reflected in job losses such as those at "the manor."
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Layoffs at the Coal Township facility do lead us to one good piece of news: It again shows that Northumberland County was wise to get out of the health care business by selling the manor three years ago to a private firm, Complete Healthcare Resources (CHR). As a private company, CHR can at least make such unfortunate decisions absence the influence of county politics.
The tightening belt at medical facilities is also a reminder why the board of directors at Shamokin Area Community Hospital had little option but to merge with Geisinger Health System at the start of 2012.
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For all that President Obama has done to change our health care system with the Affordable Care Act, experts say he's done little to curb spending on Medicare, aimed at the elderly and disabled, and Medicaid, which serves the poor. According to a Nov. 8 Bloomberg Businessweek story by Devin Leonard, the sister programs in 2011 consumed $769 billion, or 21 percent of the federal budget. Leonard says fixing Medicare and Medicaid is "more pressing" than shoring up Social Security, which itself accounted for 20 percent of federal spending last year.
Also, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services predicts the cost of Medicare and Medicaid will rise to $1.8 trillion in 2020, in part because the health-reform law is extending Medicaid to 30 million more people.
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This is an issue Congress and the president - and special interests - will wrestle with in the coming year. There are difficult options on the table on which they must reach a consensus to start this long-term repair.
In the meantime, more local residents - if not hired by the outsourced firm that will take over housekeeping and laundry duties at Mountain View - will be out of a job come Dec. 17. That's some merry Christmas.