/ Modified mar 2, 2013 9:50 a.m.

Sequester Affects Tucson: Health, UA, More

Cuts ordered; furloughs would take 30 days to kick in

Friday at midnight was the beginning of the long-discussed sequester. That’s the automatic federal budget cuts put in place as part of a budget negotiation in 2011.

The reduction in federal spending will affect the Tucson area in a number of ways, from $17.7 million in federal K-12 education funding, to $2 million used for substance abuse treatment.


Doctors who accept patients on Medicare will receive less money for treating those patients because of the cuts. That's concerning to Tucson Medical Center, said Julia Strange, a vice president of TMC.

"The 2 percent cut that is included in the sequestration in our Medicare reimbursement will have a tremendous impact on hospitals and health care providers throughout the community," Strange said.

The cuts affect TMC's and other health care organizations' bottom lines, she said.

“At TMC, a 2 percent cut is $3.6 million in our operating margin, if we took our operating margin from last year. That’s 33 percent of the operating margin that the hospital achieved in 2012," she said.

“Hospitals and health care providers are focused on providing high quality high value care, and we are doing so in a marketplace of declining reimbursements. These continued cuts will inhibit our ability to provide care throughout the region.”

The sequester will also affect programs the city of Tucson runs and border enforcement staffing.

About 2,800 civilian workers at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base will be affected, said Matt Sherman, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees representing the civilian workers on base.

"If sequestration becomes reality, I and tens of thousands of federal employees in Southern Arizona and around the country are going to have 20 percent less pay," he said.

A DM spokesman said earlier this week that 1,300 civilian workers would be affected via furloughs totaling 22 days for each over the next seven months, about one day a week.

"I don't know about you, but I can't do without 20 percent less pay. Our families will have 20 percent less pay and our resources for our families will have 20 percent less pay. This is just too big a cut for us," Sherman said.

The cuts will also affect programs that receive federal money, including the University of Arizona. Federal grants fund research that drives the country’s economy, said J.C. Mutchler, a UA vice president.

“Basic research at America’s universities, much of it funded by federal agencies like the NSF (National Science Foundation and the NIH (National Institute on Health)," he said. Those funds "are critical drivers of the U.S. innovation, economy and an essential cornerstone in building our nation’s capacity to compete in the global arena.”

The UA could lose as much as $15 million this year, which Mutchler said will be difficult to cut in the middle of the school year. In future fiscal years, if the sequester isn’t changed, he said the UA will lose $25 million a year through 2021.

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