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Minnesota, National Long Term Care Advocates: Pending Bush Medicare Cut Hurts State's Rural Seniors

New Study: Rural Seniors' Medicare-Financed Nursing Home Care Slashed $3.7 Million in Year Ahead; Federal Lawmakers, In Minnesota This Week, Urged to Publicly Oppose Cuts to Seniors' Medicare Funding

MINNEAPOLIS, May 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With federal lawmakers back in Minnesota this week for the Memorial Day district work period, state and national long term care advocates today urged the state's U.S. Senators and House members to publicly oppose the Bush Administration's planned regulatory cuts to seniors' Medicare Part A nursing home benefits - cuts a new national study finds will pose a direct threat to rural seniors' nursing home care and to facilities' ongoing operations.

At issue is the fact the Bush Administration issued a proposed regulation on May 1, 2008 that would, according to a new analysis by the American Health Care Association (AHCA), cut rural seniors' Medicare-financed nursing home care by $133.2 million nationally for FY 2009. In rural Minnesota, the cut will total $3.7 million in the year ahead - with a Patient per Day (PPD) impact of $11.57 per rural Minnesota Medicare beneficiary, according to the data.

Patti Cullen, President and CEO of the Care Providers of Minnesota (CPM), warned the Bush Administration's new regulatory-driven Medicare cuts, in conjunction with the ongoing crisis surrounding state Medicaid rates that already underpay nursing homes for the cost of providing skilled nursing care, will only further undermine facility care and their ability to serve seniors' needs. Specifically, she said, "The Medicare cuts will not only place the jobs of key front line caregivers in jeopardy - the very direct care staff that make a difference in patient outcomes - but further undermine facility quality improvement initiatives that are making a positive difference."

Continued Cullen: "The Bush Administration's Medicare cuts, coupled with existing state Medicaid under funding, will severely destabilize our many rural facilities already in danger of closing their doors. Consequently, the ongoing care access needs of seniors throughout rural Minnesota have never been in greater jeopardy, and we urgently need our U.S. Senators and House Members to publicly oppose this illogical, hurtful regulation, which will automatically go into effect this summer unless the White House is prevented from doing so."

Lori Porter, a co-founder and CEO of the National Association of Health Care Assistants, and a founding member of the National Coalition to Protect Senior Care, based in Joplin, MO, said, "The Bush Administration's single-minded effort to implement regulatory-driven Medicare cuts will undercut care in Minnesota's rural communities, and add to facilities' already onerous challenge of contending with rising wage rates and ever-higher energy prices."

Porter said despite the fact the Bush Administration has worked successfully with the long term care profession to implement a variety of quality improvement programs that have helped seniors, this new effort to cut Medicare with little or no public discussion will contribute to reversing these efforts, and is "disturbing, wrong and highly counterproductive." Stated Porter: "Cuts to Medicare beneficiaries' nursing home care has raised the legitimate ire of senior and frontline caregiver alike throughout rural Minnesota - and to help ensure the Administration's regulation is not put into effect, we will further publicize how these funding cuts will hurt rural America over the Memorial Day congressional recess."

"Rural seniors are disproportionately older, poorer and suffer from more chronic disease than their urban counterparts," said Maggie Elehwany, Vice President of Government Affairs and Policy for the National Rural Health Association, a Coalition to Protect Senior Care member organization. "These seniors are truly some of the most frail of all Medicare populations and Medicare cuts this serious will be detrimental to this vulnerable population."

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 Association of Nurse Assessment Coordinators (AANAC); the National Rural Health Association (NRHA); the American Association of Nurse Executives (AANEX); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); 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 American Health Care Association (AHCA); the American Health Quality Association (AHQA); 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); and the Senior Clinician Group.

Susan Feeney, Vice-President of Public Affairs for the American Health Care Association (AHCA) in Washington, D.C. - which released the national rural study earlier this week - said rural communities in many states like Minnesota have higher than average numbers of elderly citizens, and noted that beyond serving the growing complex care needs of elderly Minnesotans, rural facilities are a major local employer, and a significant part of the local economy.

"As the policy being changed by the Bush Administration is currently helping rural facilities successfully serve higher acuity patients - at a lower cost than other settings - it is especially curious this regulatory policy change is being pursued," Feeney stated. "Front line caregivers throughout Minnesota, and across America, make a key difference in patient care - and the Bush Administration's plan now set to go forward presents a clear and present danger to their jobs, to vulnerable seniors' care needs, and to the health and well being of rural Minnesota's economic and jobs base."

SOURCE Coalition to Protect Senior Care
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