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 Elder, Health Care Advocates Team Up To Protect Government Funding

A broad coalition of elder and health care advocates called on Congress to avoid the temptation of slashing provider assessments in the ongoing “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

“These proposals do nothing to increase the efficiency of the program and only harm those who rely on Medicaid for access to quality health care and long-term services and supports: the older adults, children, individuals with disabilities, low-income families, and pregnant women,” Wednesday’s letter said.

Addressed to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the letter is signed by 19 groups, including AARP, the Service Employees International Union, Families USA, and the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

Provider “assessments have been used to expand coverage, offer additional benefits, and increase reimbursement rates, alleviating those gaps in patient access caused by chronic, insufficient reimbursement,” Wednesday’s letter says.

Any cuts to provider assessments would be “arbitrary,” the groups say, and would “do nothing to achieve programmatic efficiencies or improve quality of care.”

“Instead, such cuts threaten access to care for the 60 million vulnerable Americans on Medicaid, including older adults, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families, and pregnant women,” the letter says.

“There is a better way.”

Wednesday’s letter was apparently an opening salvo by long term care advocates hoping that they won’t be trampled underfoot as the nation’s two parties fight through Congress’ lame duck session. Just as the letter was heading out, AHCA President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gov. Mark Parkinson and Texas Health Care Association President and CEO Tim Graves rang alarm bells of their own.
Tim Graves
Texas, like many states, is trying to figure out a way through budget problems. Long term care advocates’ lives aren’t made easier by the threat from Washington that automatic, across-the-board cuts are coming.

“Any further budget cuts aimed at facilities are illogical and wrong,” Graves said, speaking on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

Texas’ legislators meet next month to discuss 2013 funding. But if the automatic cuts embedded in the “fiscal cliff” take effect, that’ll mean another $50 million lost to Texas providers, Graves said.

Parkinson, the former governor of Kansas, said that long term care cuts threaten care for millions of the nation’s elderly.

“The business model to perform that work is really under challenge,” he said. “While we’ve been able to make tremendous strides on the quality, we’ve had to fight off at the same time continued funding battles.”
Most people who stay in nursing homes are there for relatively short-term rehabilitation, Parkinson said. A “site-neutral” approach to reimbursement would go a long way toward solving Washington’s budget woes without sacrificing care, Parkinson said.

“Our view is that there are ways to reshape post-acute payments … that make more sense than simply across-the-board cuts,” Parkinson said Wednesday.
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