The federal budget cuts known as the sequester are hitting home across Metro Detroit.
That’s the message Congressman Sander Levin took on the road in his district Friday.
Levin met with seniors, defense industry employees, and hospital staff in Macomb County. All have been affected to some degree by the sequester.
At St. John’s Macomb hospital, a 2% cut to Medicare payments has taken a $4.5 million bite out of the budget. About 70% of the hospital’s patients are covered by Medicare.
But medical education director Dr. Saroj Misra says those cuts also hurt the hospital’s program to train the next generation of doctors, at a time when changes in the health care system are pushing demand for physicians up.
Misra says residents need the most up-to-date training, but in order to do that, “We have to be able to maximize every educational dollar that we get. Conversely, every educational dollar that we lose is extremely critical.”
Hospital officials told Levin they’re holding things together, but feel like they’re suffering “death by a thousand cuts.”
Levin says this is just the beginning of the sequester pain, though: “It’s not only going to be small, a thousand cuts. They’re getting bigger.”
If left untouched, the sequester would cut almost $1 trillion from government programs over ten years.
Levin and other Democrats say that would cause massive damage to some important programs and the economy. They want to strike another deficit-reduction deal that relies more on tax hikes.
Levin says he’s hopeful debate over upcoming defense bills—another sector hit by the sequester—will force Congress to reconsider the cuts. He says piecemeal attempts to restore funding won’t work.
“Hopefully, as the sequester sinks in, we’ll rise to the occasion,” Levin says. “No guarantees, but I hope we’ll do that.”