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6 Ways the Federal Budget Cuts May Affect You

We're starting to feel the impact of the spending cuts caused by the stalemate in Washington

4. Medicare

The sequester doesn't affect Medicare benefits, but doctors who accept Medicare patients are getting a 2 percent pay cut. "Creating a larger gap between Medicare payment rates and the cost of delivering care will stifle innovation, reduce access to care and increase dysfunction within the Medicare program," says Jeremy A. Lazarus, M.D., the president of the American Medical Association.

A new survey by the Community Oncology Alliance shows that about half of the nation's cancer clinics surveyed are sending Medicare patients away because of the sequester. Because the 2 percent cut also applies to the drugs they use, the clinics must absorb a larger hit. "We are now seeing the cascading effects of sequestration," said Mark Thompson, M.D., an oncologist in Columbus, Ohio, who serves as the COA's president. "Many practices are now sending their Medicare patients to hospitals for chemotherapy, while others are laying off staff."

5. Unemployment Compensation

About 900,000 Americans have already gotten smaller emergency unemployment compensation checks, and the number will go much higher, according to Stephen Barr, a spokesman for the Department of Labor. Affected workers — those who already have been unemployed for at least six months — could lose up to $450 by the time the sequester ends on Sept. 30, Barr says. More than half of all unemployed Americans 55 and older have been out of work at least that long.

"If you've been out for six months you've gone through a lot of your savings," says Rick Ellis of Operation A.B.L.E., a Boston-based nonprofit that helps older workers with training and job searches. "Someone comes along and says you've got to cut that [unemployment compensation check] 12 percent, that is a hardship."

6. National Parks

Vacationers will need to check before setting off for national parks this summer, since some parts of them — such as campgrounds and picnic areas — may be closed. "Virtually every park is going to have some impact," says Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service. "The grass is going to get a little longer between mowing and trash cans fuller before they are emptied." All told, the parks will be short by about 1,000 seasonal employees — many of them college students and teachers who help during the summer.

Each park is handling the cuts differently. Some facilities, such as the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, will have shorter hours. Others, such as Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia (home to the Liberty Bell), will close some buildings for the summer, including Declaration House, a replica of the building where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Other casualties of the sequester will include junior ranger talks and guided tours through the giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove.

Tamara Lytle is a Washington-based reporter who has covered Congress and the White House.

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