Thursday, October 01, 2009

Today Marks the Beginning of Cuts of Up to $16 Billion to Skilled Nursing Home Care

/PRNewswire/ -- As October 1, 2009 signals the beginning of the new fiscal year 2010, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) said cuts of up to $16 billion over ten years to Medicare funded nursing home care being put into effect today by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must be taken into account by U.S. Senate and House leaders as they continue to refine the financing details of their respective health care reform bills.

"By any standard, the $16 billion ten-year cuts to Medicare funded nursing home care going into effect today represent an enormous blow to the stability our sector requires to ensure the ongoing provision of quality nursing home care," said Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of AHCA. "As health reform deliberations continue, we respectfully urge lawmakers to keep in mind that any additional Medicare cuts will be on top of this $16 billion ten year regulatory cut implemented today. Without a doubt, the care and well being of the nation's most vulnerable seniors will clearly be at stake if any new cuts are excessive."

Yarwood said it is critical to keep in mind the nature as well as the structural fragility of America's nursing home patient-base and workforce. America's nursing homes provide care and services to 1.6 million patients annually. 52% are over age 85, 73% are women, 14% are non-white, and 54% have annual incomes of less than $10,000 annually. The AHCA leader noted nursing homes and other long-term care facilities employ over 2.1 million caregivers - 86% of whom are women, and 30% of whom are non-white. The average worker is a single, low income mother between the ages of 25 and 54.

"Arguments being made by some that seniors' benefits will not be reduced by cuts now contemplated ignore the fact that when Medicare cuts provider reimbursement, providers, in turn, are forced to cut staff because labor expenses comprise 70 percent of facility costs. Cutting staff within a facility, has a direct, immediate, negative impact on patients and their care - and that is what we fear most in terms of how the eventual final reform bill may be crafted."

Yarwood also urged lawmakers to take into account the fact the Medicaid program already under funds the cost of providing care by at least $4.2 billion annually, according to Eljay, LLC, thereby already placing enormous stress on facilities and staff before federal Medicare cuts even enter the picture.

The National Governors' Association (NGA), National Council of State Legislators (NCSL), and other independent policy analysts and organizations, he said, have already sounded the alarm that state Medicaid funding cuts coupled with poor economic conditions are already threatening vulnerable populations. "As independent research has corroborated time and again, Medicare and Medicaid funding must be viewed together - not in isolation," Yarwood continued. "The combination of cuts to both programs present a clear and present danger to every aspect of facility operations - and ultimately to patient care itself."

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