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AHCA, Alliance Praise New Bipartisan, Bi-Cameral Effort Urging Bush Administration to Forego Medicare Cuts

Senators Conrad, Coleman and Reps. Pomeroy, Capito, Berkley Leading Respective Chambers' Letter Effort Urging HHS Sec. Leavitt to Stop $770 Million Cut to Seniors' Medicare-Financed Nursing Home Care

WASHINGTON, June 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Health Care Association (AHCA) and Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care today praised U.S. Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND), Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Shelley Berkley (D-NV) for leading a new effort in the U.S. Senate and House, respectively, to prevent the Bush Administration from moving forward with regulatory-driven cuts to seniors' Medicare Part A nursing home funding. AHCA and the Alliance said their initiative reflects growing public sentiment against Medicare cuts that jeopardize seniors' care, and undermine the national, state and local economic and jobs base.

In a new "Dear Colleague" letter, the Senators and House lawmakers are seeking signatures for a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt warning, "We are deeply concerned that high-quality skilled nursing care for America's seniors will be threatened if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) moves forward with an administrative proposal that would cut $770 million in Medicare funding for skilled nursing facility (SNF) care in 2009 and more than $4 billion over the next five years."

Continues the two letters to Sec. Leavitt, "As you know, in 2005, CMS revised and expanded the Medicare patient classification categories - called resource utilization groups (RUGs) - which are used to set Medicare Part A daily payment rates for beneficiaries needing SNF care. In a July 2005 statement, the agency stated, 'The new payment plan will more accurately compensate providers for the care of medically complex patients by creating new payment categories that more closely match the kind of services being provided to them. At the same time, CMS implemented changes that encouraged the movement of certain high-acuity Medicare beneficiaries to SNFs. As a result of these policy changes, the site of care for a significant number of high acuity patients appropriately shifted to SNFs. A recent analysis shows that this shift saved Medicare an estimated $709 million." (Source: Avalere Health, LLC)

The Conrad, Coleman Senate letter also states, "CMS' proposal to correct a 'forecast error' will jeopardize the significant quality improvements made by the SNF community in recent years as well as the ability of SNFs to continue caring for high acuity patients. Because SNFs rely on Medicare to make up for chronic underfunding by the Medicaid program - an average of $13 per day for every Medicaid beneficiary in nursing homes nationwide - it is critically important that Medicare reimbursement remain fair and consistent. We believe that if CMS were to finalize its proposed rule, the ability of providers to care for our nation's most vulnerable population - the frail elderly and disabled - would be severely threatened."

In the House letter, Pomeroy, Capito, and Berkley note that the Lewin Group recently estimated the Administration's Medicare cuts will have a net negative total economic impact of $4.5 billion nationally for FY 2009. In addition, they explained, the Lewin data finds the $770 million decline in revenue resulting from the regulatory cut, will impact approximately $1.8 billion in wages, 43,530 jobs and approximately $661 million in federal, state and local tax revenue just in the first year.

"We thank Senators Conrad and Coleman, and Reps. Pomeroy, Capito and Berkley, for initiating a timely, effective, bipartisan effort to help ensure elderly Medicare beneficiaries in need of intensive, high quality skilled nursing care receive the Medicare funding they need and deserve," stated Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of AHCA. Alan Rosenbloom, President of the Alliance, stated, "This new simultaneous letter effort in the U.S. Senate and House is significant because we believe it reflects growing public opposition to these regulatory-driven Medicare cuts -- not just because the existing policy is working, but because there is solid evidence it is also saving tax dollars. We thank these lawmakers for their important policy effort."

SOURCE The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care
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