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Passage of Medicaid Extension Will Preserve Quality Care, Protect Caregiver Jobs

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 Hospital News J E 4
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COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 10 Reacting to the approval of the U.S. House and Senate to measures extending emergency Medicaid relief (FMAP) until June 30, 2011, the Ohio Health Care Association (OHCA) praised the vote and urged Governor Strickland and the Ohio General Assembly to take advantage of the opportunity. OHCA's chief executive officer said that the $500 million in additional funding for Ohio's Medicaid program can be used to retain access to quality care for the state's most vulnerable seniors, and protect key frontline healthcare jobs.

"We applaud Congress for taking this action to pass vital Medicaid relief, and we urge Governor Strickland and the Ohio Legislature to use a portion of this funding for much-needed assistance to the state's long-term care population," said Peter Van Runkle, OHCA Executive Director. The organization represents more than 700 skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and other health care residences in Ohio.

"Caregivers urgently need Ohio's lawmakers to use some of these new dollars to help reduce taxes imposed on Ohio's skilled nursing care providers in the last state budget that are creating economic hardships, and to ensure continued quality care and medical advances in long-term care facilities," Van Runkle continued.

While Governor Strickland and legislative leaders have not yet announced any plans for the additional money, OHCA has asked the administration and General Assembly to support legislation that would lower the skilled nursing facility franchise fee (bed tax), and eliminate the reduction of rates to intermediate care facilities serving persons with developmental disabilities (ICF/MR).

Ohio's reimbursement system for SNFs has changed dramatically. The per-bed tax was nearly doubled in the state's last budget, resulting in an additional toll of $90 million to skilled nursing care providers. The increase in the per-bed tax and ever increasing costs - more than 70 percent of which provide for the employment of long-term care professionals - jeopardize the jobs and resources available to caregivers.

For ICF/MR providers, the care they provide to their developmentally disabled populations is 100 percent funded through the Medicaid program. And yet, these caregivers have suffered rate cuts and freezes for the past five years, despite rising expenses.

"Governor Strickland and Ohio's General Assembly have an opportunity to respond to providers' need for immediate relief," Van Runkle said. "We ask that quick steps be taken to act on reducing the additional tax on SNFs. These costs mean that seniors' care is placed in jeopardy, the stability of facility staffing is compromised, and good, local health jobs are put at risk."

A recent statement from the National Governors Association (NGA) says, "Funding for FMAP is a particularly effective tool because it immediately allows Governors to eliminate planned budget cuts required to meet balanced budget requirements and continue services for those with the greatest need."

The legislation containing the emergency Medicaid relief now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature and implementation, which is expected soon.

The Ohio Health Care Association is a non-profit association of more than 700 nursing homes, assisted living residences and facilities for people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities, representing 64,000 individuals. It is the largest long-term care association in the state, and the only chartered Ohio affiliate of the American Health Care Association, representing more than 12,000 long-term care facilities nationwide.

SOURCE Ohio Health Care Association
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