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National, State Long Term Care Leaders Express Concern That FY 2010 Medicare Cuts Undermine, Contradict Intent of Economic Stimulus Law

Seniors' Care Needs, Stability of Long Term Care Workforce Put at Risk by FY 2010 Federal Medicare Cuts; New Lewin Data Validates Importance of LTC Sector to U.S. Economy, Jobs Base, Tax Revenue

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In conjunction with releasing new national data showing the nation's long term care sector is a key driver of national and state economic activity and employment and tax revenue, state and national long term care leaders expressed alarm that Medicare cuts contained in the FY 2010 federal budget could undermine the intent of the recently-passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) -- consequently derailing sector stability, placing seniors' care access in major jeopardy, and causing the loss of the very frontline care jobs key to the provision of quality care.

"We support President Obama's intent to achieve fundamental, systemic reforms to the U.S. health care system, but these efforts must be pursued in a manner that doesn't limit seniors' access to quality long term care," stated Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association (AHCA) in reaction to the Administration's preliminary FY 2010 budget proposal. "We will work with the Administration to ensure that the final FY 2010 budget will stabilize our economy, protecting the care needs of seniors and the disabled, and creating the new front line healthcare jobs that make a difference in the lives of seniors and benefits every citizen."

In emphasizing the importance of the nation's long term care sector to overall U.S. economic activity, employment and the generation of federal and state tax revenue, Yarwood released new data from the Lewin Group, which illustrates that the long term care sector is a major driver of economic activity as it directly employs nearly 3 million individuals, generates $56.1 billion in tax revenue annually, and indirectly contributes $371.9 billion to the U.S. economy every year.

"The watchwords of the long term care sector are quality, jobs and community value, and policy should help promote what we do best for our patients as well as our nation," Yarwood continued. "While we support and commend the Administration's goal of reforming the U.S. health care system, we must not do so in a way that jeopardizes seniors' access to quality nursing home care, and presents a clear and present danger to the U.S. economy and our state and local caregiver jobs base."

With more than 1,200 nursing facilities providing care for nearly 105,000 frail and elderly in the state, California Association of Health Facilities (CAHF) President and CEO James Gomez, expressed alarm that Medicare cuts in the President's budget could turn back the clock on progress long term care providers have made in quality care improvements and services to an ever growing senior population in California.

"While we work in Sacramento to ensure seniors' care and providers' stability are priorities, we are left with the possibility that federal lawmakers could pass illogical and hurtful federal Medicare cuts," Gomez said. "Long term care generates $4.0 billion in tax revenue and provides more than 300,000 jobs across the state, yet we have 15,000 staff vacancies in our skilled nursing care facilities, 5,700 in nursing staff alone. Stable funding policies are integral to quality care, and central to a strong caregiver jobs base."

Lori Porter, Co-founder of the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA), and a senior spokesperson for the Coalition to Protect Senior Care, based in Joplin, MO, said it is essential that the nation's Governors ensure new state Medicaid funds, disbursed as part of the federal ARRA law, actually go towards meeting poor seniors' care needs, and not diverted to other state spending priorities that have nothing at all to do with eldercare.

Porter urged Governors to use the enhanced federal Medicaid funds provided through ARRA to reverse cuts already made to health care providers, and to prevent new cuts being considered. "Ensuring impoverished seniors in nursing homes continue to receive high quality care is contingent upon the ability of facilities to hire and retain appropriate numbers of registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and certified nursing assistants (CNAs)," she continued. "When state officials choose to cut Medicaid funding to providers, they are often forced to eliminate critical nursing staff positions -- ultimately to the detriment of seniors' care needs."

SOURCE American Health Care Association
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