University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics remains optimistic in regards to changes in the federal health care system, contrary to the recent changes announced by Meriter Hospital Nov. 27.

Last Tuesday, Meriter announced cuts to both Medicare and Medicaid, as well as a 50-person employment downsizing, in response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, according to UW Hospital spokesperson Lisa Burnett, UW Hospital has remained optimistic about the federal changes.

“We’ve been preparing for federal health care transformation for some time,” Burnett said. “I feel very good about our preparation.”

Although unable to comment on the measures Meriter will be taking in response to the PPACA, Burnett said she is confident in UW’s approach to the health care reform and the hospital’s ability to retain employees.

According to Burnett, UW hospitals have put many policies in place to better the balance between work and home life for employees. Burnett added the UW Hospital has “made a very big effort in becoming the employer of choice.”

Meriter, a private hospital, is facing $3.6 billion in reimbursement cuts, according to a statement. However, the effects of the PPACA policy changes on the UW hospitals, a public hospital, have yet to be determined, Burnett said.

Though UW hospitals cannot predict the outcome of the implementation of the new federal health care law, Burnett said the hospital prides themselves on employee retention, especially with a focus on female employees.

Because many of the UW Hospital staff are female, Burnett stressed the importance of promoting a workplace that allows wives and mothers to feel as though they have enough time for their families and their jobs.

“It’s something we’ve done that has helped us hang onto employees in a competitive market,” Burnett said.

However, Dr. Michael Abernethy, faculty member of the Division of Emergency Medicine at UW’s School of Medicine and Public Health, said “there has to be, and there will be cutbacks” in certain areas of UW Hospital expenditures, by drawing comparisons to similar expenditures in the United Kingdom.

Despite this prediction, Abernethy agreed, at this point, “it’s hard to predict how this will affect things and how health care entities are going to adapt.”

At UW hospitals, Abernethy said operations have been running smoothly thus far, adding the layoffs at Meriter were multifactorial.

UW political science and law professor Howard Schweber reached a similar conclusion and said President Barack Obama’s health care policy is only a small part of the story.

“Badgercare is underfunded, which is also putting pressure on hospitals,” Schweber said in an email to The Badger Herald. “UnitedHealthcare and Molina Healthcare have both said that they, too, are either cutting services or thinking of doing so, but they point to the inadequate funding of the state program rather than changes to Medicare.”

According to Schweber, endlessly increasing spending on Medicare is a long-term problem. If federal spending is going to be cut, then businesses that depend on federal spending will have to adjust, Schweber said.

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