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Nursing Home Caregivers, Providers, Small Business Leaders Warn Deep Medicare Cuts Will Threaten Seniors' Care, Destabilize Staffing, Hurt Local Economies and Jobs Base

Thursday, October 29, 2009 General News J E 4
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Maine Senators Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins Credited With Drawing Needed Attention to Multiple Threats Facing Seniors, Caregivers, Local Communities

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by the Community Cares Coalition:

With pending health reform legislation in the U.S. Congress containing cuts of up to $32 billion over ten years to Medicare-funded nursing home care, a diverse national coalition of front line caregivers, state health care providers and local small business owners joined together at a Capitol Hill news conference to warn deep cuts must be reigned in to safeguard the care of America's most vulnerable seniors, preserve the jobs of the key frontline caregivers who make the difference in patient outcomes, and protect the ongoing viability of local small businesses oriented towards serving the long term care sector.

"The very deep Medicare funding reductions like those now being considered by Congress represent a direct, immediate threat to every U.S. seniors' nursing home care, and to the ongoing operational stability of skilled nursing facilities throughout the nation," warned Rick Erb, Executive Director of the Maine Health Care Association (MHCA), in Augusta, ME. "We are thankful Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have recently focused much-needed attention on the unique challenges our sector faces as we battle not just Medicare cuts from Washington, but state Medicaid funding crises in state capitols across America."

Erb also pointed out these new, deep funding cuts would come at a time when the Obama Administration just imposed a regulatory cut to Medicare-financed nursing home care of up to $16 billion nationally. These cuts were put into effect by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on October 1, 2009.

Lisa Cantrell, National Co-Chair of the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA), based in Joplin, MO, said the mission of the nation's front line caregivers moving forward is to ensure lawmakers crafting a final health reform bill understand the deep inter-relationship between Medicare and Medicaid funding, and that funding adequacy in both programs has a major impact on staffing operations and the quality of care provided on the front lines.

"We will continue to impress upon lawmakers that because three of every four nursing home patients' care is funded by Medicare and Medicaid combined -- and because facilities devote a full 70% of operating expenses to wages, benefits and other fixed labor costs -- adequate Medicare funding in any final reform legislation is integral to staffing stability and quality care in facilities nationwide," Cantrell said.

Tom Norton, owner of the Lee Insurance Agency, in Muscatine, IA, said a significant portion of his business entails insuring skilled nursing facilities throughout rural Iowa. "My small business, with a heavy rural presence, exemplifies how the ongoing economic viability of long term care facilities ultimately will have a direct relationship to the strength of the small business community itself."

Erb, Cantrell and Norton said they understand and appreciate the fact House and Senate leaders must seek budgetary savings to help finance health reform, but that some approaches make far less sense than others.

"We well understand how important it is to pass a comprehensive reform bill, but by any standard of fairness and common sense, nursing staff and the vulnerable patients under their care are the wrong targets for deep funding cuts," Cantrell continued. "On behalf of seniors, caregivers and small businessmen and women throughout our great nation, we respectfully ask House and Senate leaders in charge of shaping a final bill to ensure Medicare funding for nursing home care remains the priority it must and deserves to be."

SOURCE Community Cares Coalition
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