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AHCA and Alliance: Senate Opposition to Proposed FY 2009 Medicare Cuts Gaining Strength

Sixteen U.S. Senators Sign Tri-Partisan Letter to Conrad, Gregg Urging Rejection of Funding Cuts

WASHINGTON, March 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following yesterday's news that seventy-six members of the U.S. House of Representatives are urging the House Budget Committee to reject the Bush Administration's proposed five-year, $24 billion cut to Medicare-financed nursing home care, sixteen U.S. Senators led by Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have signed and issued a new letter to Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-NH) similarly seeking to oppose the Medicare cuts.

Signing the new letter in addition to Senators Johnson and Collins are Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Paul Feingold (D-WI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Robert Casey (D-PA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

The Senators state in the letter, which was delivered by Johnson and Collins to the Senate Budget Committee last night: "We are writing to urge the Committee to strongly oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in the Administration's Fiscal Year 2009 (FY 09) Budget, especially those affecting long term care... Approximately 80% of nursing home patients rely on Medicare or Medicaid to pay for their long term care. 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. Providing sufficient funding for Medicare and Medicaid will ensure that this ever-increasing population will have ready access to long term care when the time arrives."

"There is growing momentum in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to ensure the Administration's proposed cuts to seniors' vital Medicare-financed nursing home benefit is eliminated, and we thank Senators Johnson, Collins and all of the letter signatories for their efforts to protect their most vulnerable constituents," stated Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of AHCA. "The Johnson-Collins letter is also timely in that it draws needed attention to the chronic Medicaid under funding 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 proposed budget takes a giant step backwards in terms of assisting our profession's ongoing efforts to sustain the quality improvements that make an enormous difference in the lives of our residents. We thank the Senators for their leadership in opposing these proposed Medicare cuts. In signing this important letter, they clearly understand Medicare funding reductions of this nature will adversely impact constituents' care needs at the local level, and will challenge providers to maintain wages and benefits for the hundreds of thousands of direct care workers employed in skilled nursing facilities, 85% of whom are women and 30% of whom are minorities."

Continues the new letter to Senators Conrad and Gregg: 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."

SOURCE The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care
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