If the federal government doesn't vote to raise the debt ceiling, hospitals and health care centers in Brooklyn will be reeling.
"[A lot of] health care center payments are through Medicare and Medicaid, and without the federal government raising the debt limit they're going to be unable to pay what's due under Medicare and Medicaid," said Carl Hum, President of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
Health care is one of the fastest growing industries in Brooklyn, employing one in five of the borough's workers, Hum said. And Medicare and Medicaid is the primary payer into the system.
But regardless of whether the debt ceiling is raised, hospital and medical center employees and administrators are still holding their breath, Hum said, because President Barack Obama did not take Medicare and Medicaid funding off the negotiating table.
Particularly in Brooklyn, where many hospitals including Woodhull in Bushwick/ Bed-Stuy, Brookdale in Brownsville, the Brooklyn Hospital Center in Downtown and Interfaith in Bed-Stuy/Crown Heights receive more federal Medicare and Medicaid funds, called DSH (Disproportionate Share Hospital) funds, than other hospitals, the prospects are frightening.
"Brooklyn has a disproportionate share of people who can't pay for medicine," Hum said. "Hospitals located in areas with a higher concentration of poor residents" are particularly threatened.
Hum said Congressman Michael Grimm, R-Brooklyn, has argued that DSH funds not be reduced.
Raising the debt ceiling also has a trickle down affect, Hum said. Brooklyn small businesses will be negatively affected because interest rates and credit card rates will go up, making it harder for businesses to borrow money and buy inventory to create their products.
"The capitalist system is based upon a system of credit," he said. "And credit will be further tightened."
And the next to be hit by the trickle down? The consumer.
If a producer of a product is unable to get credit to make that product, Hum said, it becomes more scarce, thus increasing its price.
"Pure economics will dictate how this will happen," he said.
Raising the debt ceiling is the "lesser of two evils," Hum said, because if the country defaults on its debt, confidence in the country's economy will drop.
"It's the safer thing to do," he said.