Proposed Medicare cuts put senior care at risk

We support Congress’s broader effort to increase every American’s access to affordable, high quality health care. At the same time, we must not sacrifice quality skilled nursing care for our vulnerable seniors or lose critical local jobs. To be successful, health care reform must achieve all of these objectives.

Unfortunately, we are alarmed

that current proposals contain deep cuts to nursing home funding for Medicare beneficiaries. Cutting funding directly puts caregiver jobs at risk and, consequently, threatens to impact the quality of care for our seniors.

Under proposed reform legislation now pending in the U.S. House of Representatives -- due for a floor vote upon Congress’s return to Washington in September – Medicare funding for seniors in nursing homes would be cut by more than $32 billion over ten years. For Louisiana seniors alone this equates to a loss of $561.7 million, according to a recent analysis of the bill by the American Health Care Association (AHCA).

The economic impact analysis also finds that income from long-term care labor in Louisiana could be slashed by $15 million should the proposed Medicare funding cuts take effect. This substantial loss in labor funding, we rightly fear, would lead to facility layoffs and decreased salaries and benefit cuts to caregivers during this time of economic duress -- all of which would negatively affect the quality of care delivered to seniors receiving nursing home care. Specifically, the analysis also finds nearly 800 Louisiana new long-term care jobs would be put at risk from the House bill in the coming year alone.

From a broad-based policy perspective, Louisiana nursing homes are now serving an increasingly diverse patient base, and providing a greater variety of acute care, rehabilitative and convalescent services that cannot be delivered anywhere else. These critical and intensive services, and the expanded capacity now benefitting seniors, are in dire jeopardy because of the sheer size and scope of the proposed Medicare funding cuts.

The Medicare funding cuts – coupled with the underfunding of nursing home care by Louisiana’s Medicaid program -- will undermine the ability of nursing homes to effectively treat their more medically complex patient population. Medicare and Medicaid funding are inextricably linked, and our federal lawmakers must factor this reality into their thinking and policymaking as the health reform debate continues.

Caregivers do everything they can, day-in and day-out, to make residents’ experience a positive one. Hopefully, the Louisiana congressional delegation understands the connection between stable, adequate Medicare funding and providing our seniors with the quality care they are accustomed to and deserve.

Let’s do this right and make seniors equal beneficiaries of this historic health care reform – not the sacrificial lambs.

LSN

Editorials represent the opinions of this newspaper, and not of any one individual.

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