Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Responding to the Impact of Sequestration

Responding to the Impact of Sequestration

responding-to-the-impact-of-sequestration- image0Some people, and I am one of them, could not have defined the word sequester a few months ago. I think I had heard a variation of the term, maybe in a movie or in the news, of a judge ordering a jury to be sequestered — which I understand to be when a jury is kept together away from their homes or workplaces during a trial. It is rare. That was the extent of my knowledge about the word. Now, it is hard to pick up a magazine or newspaper without the term being featured.

What exactly is it?

It is $85.3 billion in automatic federal spending cuts that officially took effect March 1. The cuts for federal fiscal year 2013, which end on Oct. 1, are part of a larger package of $1.2 trillion in trims scheduled to occur over the next decade. The reductions are split evenly between defense and domestic programs. Interestingly, I interviewed an active-duty military ear, nose and throat candidate for a faculty position at TTUHSC last week and he was genuinely concerned about the furloughing of civilian workers at his base. His demeanor revealed his distress. I saw upfront and personal how the cuts are affecting at least this one person.

Some have asked if it would affect Medicaid — the joint federal-state health program for the poor and certain others. The answer is no. However, Medicare spending will be cut by 2 percent through reductions in payments to health care providers. The Medicare cuts do not start until April 1. Texas Tech Physicians, of course, serves Medicare patients and this cut has our attention. It has the attention of others in academic medicine as well. The TTUHSC School of Medicine is active in the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).  AAMC is very concerned about the impact of sequestration.

What can we do about these cuts, if anything?

Well, we can express ourselves in appropriate settings and in appropriate ways. Another thing we can do is make our practice the best it can possibly be — in quality, satisfaction, value, outcomes and in the respectful way we treat each other. We can always watch expenses.  The simple truth is that cuts are hard medicine to swallow — but, if we become the practice of choice in our service area — the affect of sequestration, while not pleasant, will be tolerable.  This is not naiveté, it is playing the cards we have been dealt.