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Medicare Cuts in Bush Budget 'Shortsighted, Far Off the Mark' in Protecting Seniors' Long Term Care Needs, Sustaining Nursing Home Quality Gains

Cuts Endanger Seniors, Undermine Effort to Make Medicare Post-Acute Benefit More Rational

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care characterized the Bush Administration's FY 2009 budget blueprint released today as "far off the mark," and said if implemented, the proposal would have serious and lasting negative repercussions on efforts to maintain the economic stability crucial to sustained quality improvement in nursing home care for 1.5 million frail, elderly and disabled citizens. Although much analytic work remains to be done before the full impact on nursing homes will be known, at minimum the proposal would slash Medicare payments to nursing homes nearly $1 billion in FY 2009 and an astonishing $17 billion over five years by eliminating any inflationary increases for three years and institutionalizing less than inflationary increases in subsequent years.

This proposal, which the proposed budget describes as designed to improve efficiency and productivity, is particularly ironic, given that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers the Medicare program, specifically states less than a year ago that nursing homes required an inflationary update to promote 'program efficiency, quality and sustainability.' Given the recent economic downturn and the continuing growth in health care inflation, it is difficult to contend that recent developments could have changed the outlook for nursing homes so dramatically.

"We are very disappointed by this unrealistic budget plan. It is far off the mark. We pledge to work with Congress in a bipartisan manner to ensure these Medicare cuts, which undermine the growing post-acute and skilled nursing care needs of our most vulnerable citizens, are rejected," stated Alan G. Rosenbloom, President of the Alliance. "Beyond taking a giant step backwards in our ongoing effort to promote and achieve quality improvements in the nation's nursing homes, this budget would be devastating to the ability of nursing homes to sustain quality improvement."

Rosenbloom praised Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who has already announced his intention to fight the Medicare cuts, and noted that the Alliance will work on a bipartisan basis with lawmakers to demonstrate how these funding reductions 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.

"We plan on ensuring the discussion about this federal budget and its Medicare cuts are fully aired at the state and local levels because as state Medicaid budgets continue to be squeezed by more challenging economic conditions, it is essential to sound the alarm that patient care and caregiver jobs alike could face serious and adverse consequences," he continued. "The 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."

Noting the Administration has justified prior Medicare cuts by citing the work of an independent federal panel, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), Rosenbloom said that by failing to consider the substantial Medicaid payment shortfalls to nursing homes in formulating its recommendations, MedPAC provides the Administration, Congress and the public a flawed basis upon which to assess the funding landscape, and to ultimately determine the best policy.

As additional details emerge surrounding the FY 2009 budget, the Alliance will continue to comment when warranted.

SOURCE The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care
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