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Coalition of Caregivers Warns Congress of Danger to Oldest U.S. Seniors if Medicare Slashed

U.S. Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and Tom Allen Express Bipartisan Concern About Threat to Care Quality

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Warning that cuts to seniors' Medicare Part A nursing home benefit would endanger the quality of care and quality of life of America's frail, elderly and disabled citizens dependent upon skilled nursing care, a broad array of clinician and caregiver groups today urged Congress to end consideration of Medicare funding reductions. Front-line caregivers are mobilizing to alert and educate seniors, caregivers and elected officials nationwide about the stakes involved to both patients and the continued viability of intra-facility quality improvement programs.

In announcing the Coalition to Protect Senior Care, and in thanking several members of Congress who attended today's event, Lisa Cantrell, a co-founder of the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA), stated, "Based upon our collective clinical experience, we have a deep, growing concern that the implementation of Medicare cuts will endanger the quality of care and quality of life of America's most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries. Consequently, there is no legitimate way to justify implementing cuts that would severely undermine the essential efforts of direct care staff responsible for the vast majority of the nation's three million Medicare beneficiaries."

The Coalition to Protect Senior Care consists of the American Association for Long Term Care Nursing (AALTCN); the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA); the American Health Care Association (AHCA); the American Health Quality Association (AHQA); the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA); the American Society of Health Care Administration Executives (ASHCAE); ASHCAE state affiliate members representing Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas and Utah; the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care (NASL); the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA); the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care; the Coalition of Women in Long Term Care (COWL); the National Rural Health Association (NRHA); and the Senior Clinician Group.

"From our standpoint as front line caregivers who see first-hand the challenges associated with caring for frail, needy seniors, Medicare cuts like those now being considered would have a disastrous impact on patient care, and jeopardize the quality improvement efforts we have underway -- and that are working well," warned Lori Porter, also a co-founder of NAHCA. "Medicare cuts also threaten the jobs of those responsible for the most intimate care needs of patients. To our astonishment and disappointment, the funding reductions under consideration would return Medicare funding levels to those seen almost a decade ago. This is untenable and unwarranted."

"These proposed Medicare cuts could destabilize long term care for seniors in West Virginia and across the nation," said Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), co-founder of the bipartisan House Long Term Care Caucus, which is working to ensure seniors have access to affordable, quality care. "I am pleased to join the Coalition to Protect Senior Care in their advocacy to ensure that America's nursing homes and long term care providers are able to continue to care for our most vulnerable seniors and disabled citizens."

Congressman Tom Allen (D-ME), a Co-Chair of the House Long Term Care Caucus, said, "I will also soon introduce a bill with Representative Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) to deal comprehensively with long term care and help sustain quality improvements that are being made in long term care settings across the country. Among other things, our measure will promote investment in capital improvements for aging skilled nursing facilities, encourage collaboration between providers and inspectors, assist in the creation of a stable and well-trained workforce and modernize the long term care payment system."

Maggie Elehwany, Vice President of Government Affairs and Advocacy for the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) added that Medicare funding cuts will have a disproportionate, negative impact on America's rural seniors and the facilities and staff responsible for their care. "Facility care in rural America is already negatively impacted by the fact Medicaid reimbursements do not cover the actual cost of care. Rural facilities, especially, are already struggling with Medicaid shortfalls and the sparse availability of staff -- and Medicare cuts will further undermine facilities' ability to hire, train and retain key direct care staff. These are the very workers who make the key difference in care quality and patient outcomes, and we will ensure our membership alerts the key rural lawmakers who can help make the difference in this effort."

The coalition participants noted that in order to ensure continued progress on the quality improvement front, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier recommended a 3.3 percent funding increase for FY2008 to help sustain recognized gains in key clinical areas such as pain treatment, pressure ulcers, dehydration and weight loss management. Those supporting the Medicare cuts, the coalition members said, fail to address and appreciate the fact that Medicare, increasingly, is being forced to subsidize Medicaid. Recent studies estimate that Medicaid pays some $4.4 billion less than the actual cost of nursing home care for the nation's seniors. This translates into $13.15 per patient per day less than the cost of care, an amount which has increased 45% since 1999. (Source: BDO Seidman/Eljay, LLC; September 2007).

"One of this new coalition's most important missions is to ensure consumers, lawmakers and the public at large is aware the General Accountability Office (GAO), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other key entities have specifically noted that with stable Medicare funding, facilities have made notable care quality improvements," continued Charlotte Eliopoulus, executive director of the American Association for Long Term Care Nursing (AALTCN). "The linkage between payment stability and quality improvements is unmistakable, and our goal is to make certain that numbers and balance sheets must never take precedence over the well being of real people with growing complex care needs."

SOURCE Coalition to Protect Senior Care
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