Long term care leaders praise Reps. Berkley, Titus for key letter addressing Medicare – Medicaid funding squeeze on patients, facilities

Bipartisan letter seeks preservation of robust Medicare, Medicaid funding

LAS VEGAS – The Nevada Health Care Association (NHCA) and the American Health Care Association (AHCA) today praised U.S. Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) for leading, and Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-Nev.) for lending her signature to, a new bipartisan letter  to House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) and Ranking Member Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) asking them to help preserve Medicare and Medicaid funding for the long term care community as their Committee examines issues related to these important entitlement programs.

“By leading and signing this new letter being sent to Budget Committee Chairman Spratt and Ranking Member Ryan, Representatives Berkley and Titus, respectively, are acting in an effective, bipartisan manner to ensure Nevada’s oldest seniors in need of the most intensive skilled nursing care receive the vital Medicare and Medicaid funding they require – and we thank them for their efforts on their behalf,” said Charles Perry, executive director for NHCA. “The letter draws needed attention to the chronic Medicaid under funding crisis, which is increasingly problematic for Nevada’s patients and facilities at a time when Medicare-funded nursing home care has been cut by nearly $27 billion in just the past six months.”

A recent study of Nevada’s Medicaid program finds the differential between the cost of providing quality care and how much providers are actually reimbursed was $19.09 per patient per day in 2009. On Oct. 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cut Medicare-funded nursing home care by approximately $12 billion over 10 years, and the recently passed health care reform bill cut Medicare-funded nursing home care by $14.6 billion over 10 years. 

“We thank these members of Congress who have recognized that Medicare and Medicaid funding must be viewed together, and that a combination of cuts to both programs presents a clear and present danger to every aspect of facility operations,” said Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association. “The continued provision of quality nursing home care for every citizen who requires it is a non-partisan public health imperative, and we commend these champions for their dedicated commitment to our most vulnerable citizens.”

States the letter sent by Representative Berkley, along with Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), to Chairman Spratt and Ranking Member Ryan:

“Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) face increasing pressures due to struggling state Medicaid programs coupled with Medicare funding reductions of more than $12 billion over ten years as of October 1, 2009. In fact, Medicaid fails to cover the cost of care for patients in nursing homes. In 2009, the shortfall was projected to be $4.6 billion nationwide or $14.17 per patient, per day. These combined Medicare-Medicaid funding cuts have had the effect of significantly reducing the resources available for providing skilled nursing care at a time when patients have more medically complex needs than ever before.

“Any further reductions will hurt a growing economic sector, since long term care added 50,200 jobs in 2009 alone while the country’s approximately 16,000 nursing facilities and 39,000 assisted living communities comprise 1.1 percent of our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or $153.8 billion. Because workforce expenses represent 70 percent of a facility’s total costs, any reductions in funding will result in workforce cutbacks which will not only severely compromise the ability of long term care to provide life-sustaining care services to frail, elderly and disabled patients and residents, but also will decrease the economic contributions of the sector.

“Please join us in requesting that the Budget Committee continue to support the long term care community through reasonable annual inflation adjustments and fair reimbursement for unpaid Medicare co-payments as they consider issues related to entitlement programs in preparing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Budget Resolution.”