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NGA Focus on States' Health Care Responsibilities Spotlights Need for Congress to Pass Federal Medicaid Relief

Nation's Governors Urged to Make FMAP Extension a Top Federal Budget Priority as New Study Points To Continued State Fiscal Turmoil

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the National Governors' Association (NGA) convenes this weekend to outline 2010-11 policy priorities, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) expressed alarm that state fiscal crises of historic proportion have been a major contributing factor to undercutting skilled nursing facilities' (SNFs) ongoing ability to provide quality care to the nation's most vulnerable seniors.

To help protect care quality and preserve key health care jobs, Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of AHCA, urged Governors to ensure their respective state congressional delegations understand the urgency of extending federal Medicaid relief granted to states under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

"We agree with Governors of both parties that budgetary flexibility in state capitals nationwide has been decimated by this deep, persistent recession – and extending federal Medicaid relief must be a front-burner congressional priority in order to protect America's most vulnerable frail, elderly and disabled," Yarwood said. "The NGA's planned discussion of states' role 'in ensuring a high quality, efficient and coordinated health care system' must focus not just on passing urgent funding to a fraying Medicaid system, but how Medicare cuts of over $12 billion passed by the Administration in 2009 have contributed significantly to the fragility of our sector."

According to a newly issued report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, a total of 44 states and the District of Columbia reported that program enrollment and spending trends are above the levels projected at the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year. A majority of states, the report notes, are facing the prospect of mid-fiscal year 2010 program cutbacks to balance their budgets. Severe challenges are expected to persist next year as the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) is scheduled to end on December 31, 2010.

Yarwood said these combined Medicaid and Medicare funding pressures have significantly reduced the resources available for the provision of skilled nursing care at a time when patients have more medically-complex needs than ever before. Seniors in many states have already endured or will soon face substantial Medicaid funding cuts as a result of state legislative actions, he said, and pointed out a recent Eljay analysis of the nation's Medicaid program finds Medicaid cumulatively underfunded the actual cost of providing quality nursing home care by $4.7 billion in 2009.

"In addition to threatening patient care and undermining employment stability and opportunities, the worsening Medicare and Medicaid cost-squeeze also inhibits facilities' continued investment in cost effective care," Yarwood continued. "This is diametrically contrary to the health policy objectives of our Governors, Congress and the Administration itself. Passage of federal Medicaid relief is a key first step towards achieving a stronger foundation upon which to care for millions of U.S. seniors."

SOURCE American Health Care Association

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SOURCE American Health Care Association
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