Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. In just a few weeks, Medicare funding will be slashed by 2%, unless Congress acts to delay or fix the impending sequester. That’s right. The fiscal cliff is back, and this time lawmakers are skeptical that there will be a late night deal to keep the automatic cuts from taking effect. “I just don’t see how we’re going to avoid it,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) told the Los Angeles Times. However, President Barack Obama has not given up hope. On February 8, The White House released a statement pushing Congress to act before the March 1 deadline, saying the cuts would have a damaging effect on the middle class. “Deep, indiscriminate cuts to things like education and training, energy and national security will cost us jobs, and it will slow down our recovery,” Obama said. “It’s not the right thing to do for the economy. It’s not the right thing for folks who are out there still looking for work.” Failure to act would take a toll on the healthcare industry as well. Sequestration would deal a 2% spending cut to Medicare, reducing the program’s cost by roughly $100 billion over ten years. Medicare would see a $3 billion reduction in this year’s funding alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Other cuts to healthcare programs include the elimination of 12,000 research positions funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that “would delay progress on the prevention of debilitating chronic conditions that are costly to society and delay development of more effective treatments for common and rare diseases affecting millions of Americans.” Furthermore, reductions to the Mental Health Block Grant program would prevent 373,000 mentally ill patients from receiving treatment. The American Hospital Association (AHA) has also called for action, holding an Advocacy Day event where lawmakers and others introduced proposals to delay or replace certain sequester cuts that could affect hospitals. The alternatives presented include reducing payments for evaluation and management services and other procedures provided in hospital outpatient departments; cuts to graduate medical education, bad debt and provider assessments; additional Medicare prospective coding offsets; and changes to programs that support rural health care. Hospital leaders also met with lawmakers and their staffs to reject further hospital payment cuts that could jeopardize access to patient care.