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AHCA, Alliance Praise Bipartisan Johnson, Collins Letter Urging Rejection of Bush Medicare Cuts

Letter to Senate Budget Leaders Spotlights "Perpetual Underfunding of Medicaid Skilled Nursing Facility Care;"

New Zogby Poll Shows 63% of Likely Voters Oppose Cutting Oldest Seniors' Medicare-Financed Nursing Home Care

WASHINGTON, March 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Health Care Association (AHCA) and Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care today praised a new bipartisan letter from U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-NH) urging the Committee to "strongly oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in the Administration's FY 2009 budget, especially those affecting long term care." Senators Johnson and Collins also have initiated a "Dear Colleague" letter effort to rally support in the U.S. Senate and encourage their colleagues to join them in opposing the Administration's proposed nearly $24 billion, five-year cuts to Medicare for skilled nursing care.

"This new bipartisan effort from Senators Johnson and Collins is a strong beginning in the U.S. Senate toward ensuring the Administration's proposed cuts to seniors' vital Medicare-financed nursing home care is eliminated, and we thank them for their efforts," stated Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of AHCA. "The Johnson-Collins letter is also significant because it draws needed attention to the chronic Medicaid underfunding crisis, which becomes still more problematic for patients and facilities when Medicare-funded nursing home care is cut in the manner proposed by the Bush Administration."

Alan Rosenbloom, President of the Alliance, stated, "The Bush Administration's budget is shortsighted and largely ignores the new realities of the Medicare post-acute marketplace, to the detriment of Medicare beneficiaries and the health care workers on whom they rely for quality services. Beyond taking a giant step backwards in the profession's ongoing efforts to achieve quality improvement, this budget would be devastating to the ability of nursing homes to sustain those improvements. Senators Johnson and Collins merit strong praise for getting this necessary effort to fix the budget underway."

The new Johnson-Collins letter to Senators Conrad and Gregg states: Despite the growing demand for long term care, the existing financing mechanisms for Medicare and Medicaid are intertwined and increasingly dysfunctional. Medicare and Medicaid funding comprise the vast majority of all skilled nursing facility (SNF) payments. The Administration's cuts are especially egregious when the drastic underfunding of Medicaid-financed SNF care is considered. For 2007, SNFs received $4.4 billion less than needed to cover the costs of providing care to Medicaid patients according to BDO Seidman. However, the Administration's FY 09 budget fails to account for this perilous situation, which will only worsen as state economies continue to decline, since it calls for nearly $24 billion in cuts to Medicare SNF funding over five years.

In urging their Senate colleagues to join their effort opposing the proposed Medicare cuts, Senators Johnson and Collins note that approximately 80 percent of nursing home patients rely on Medicare and Medicaid to pay for their long term care, and, "given that the fastest growing segment of our population are those 85 and older, our nation's need for long term care will continue to increase significantly."

In addition to thanking U.S. Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) for issuing a similar letter last week to House Budget Committee Chair John Spratt (D-SC) and Ranking Member Paul Ryan (R-WI) asking them to rescind the proposed Medicare cuts, Yarwood and Rosenbloom also pointed to new data from Zogby International showing 63 percent of likely voters oppose the Medicare cuts while a strong plurality, 45 percent, "strongly oppose" the Administration's proposal.

Notably, 56.9% of Democrats "strongly oppose" the Medicare cuts, as do 47.1 % of Independents, and 31.3% of Republicans. The Zogby survey of 1,105 likely U.S. voters, conducted for the American Health Care Association 2/13 - 2/16, has an error margin of +/- 3%.

SOURCE American Health Care Association
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