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 LTC Advocates To Press Congress on ‘Doc Fix’

Long term care advocates will make their case directly to Congress today and Tuesday, as the American Health Care Association and National Center on Assisted Living open their annual Congressional Briefing.

Expected to join advocates are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.). At the top of the agenda is Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR), known colloquially as the “doc fix.”

Providers are worried that their ox will be gored if Congress decides on a permanent doc fix, as powerful lobbying groups such as the American Medical Association have insisted.

“This is a critical time for providers as Congress considers a possible permanent fix to the SGR,” AHCA President and Chief Executive Officer Gov. Mark Parkinson says in an e-mail. “While AHCA supports a permanent fix, any legislation aimed at addressing physician payments should avoid cuts to skilled nursing centers.”

Besides conferencing at Washington’s Hyatt Regency, providers are expected to take their cases directly to their members of Congress in two full days of lobbying.

“Congressional Briefing offers long term and post-acute care providers a unique opportunity to directly tell their members of Congress this—that skilled nursing has already suffered rounds of reductions and that any further, arbitrary cuts threaten seniors’ access to this critical care,” Parkinson says. “And if budget solutions are needed to address this issue, our profession is ready with policies that protect and improve quality of care.”

Providers are expected to lobby Congress on extending the therapy caps exceptions process, “to ensure seniors can continue to receive the therapy services they need to recuperate,” Parkinson says. “This is an imperative provision that should be in included in any doc fix legislation.”

Long term care advocates are likely feeling more confident in their lobbying than they were just a week ago, when it was announced that AHCA and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care were joining forces under AHCA’s banner.

Parkinson says the agreement will strengthen the profession’s hand—and it comes not a moment too soon.

“This past week’s news that the Alliance would be joining forces with AHCA echoes what Congressional Briefing is all about—the importance of bringing our profession together,” he says. “The budget debates at the end of this year will determine a lot of our sector’s fate for the next year or coming years. By coming together in D.C. and meeting with members of Congress individually, providers can help empower long term and post-acute care, just as we will with the Alliance.”
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