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Nation's Nursing Home Caregivers: Health and Well-Being of America's Most Vulnerable Seniors at Stake as Medicare Cuts Debated in Washington

NAHCA National Convention Attendees Say Medicare Cuts to Providers Will Undermine Seniors' Care

RIVERSIDE, Mo., Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At a news conference during its annual National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA) convention, America's front-line nursing home caregivers gathered to urge Congress to significantly scale back attempts to cut seniors' Medicare benefits in any final health reform bill, and said arguments being made that funding reductions to providers will not harm the quality of care provided to seniors is flatly incorrect.

"The line of reasoning we hear from some in Washington that seniors' care will not be impacted from deep Medicare cuts to providers ignores the bottom line reality that when Medicare cuts provider reimbursement, providers, in turn, are forced to cut staff because labor expenses comprise 70 percent of facility costs," stated Lisa Cantrell, Co-Chair of NAHCA. "Cutting staff within a facility, has a direct, immediate, negative impact on patients and their care -- and this fact cannot be brushed aside nor conveniently wished away."

Cantrell said the pending health reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives which cuts Medicare-financed nursing home benefits by $32 billion over ten years "represents a direct and immediate threat to front line care capacity in skilled nursing facilities throughout America." The NAHCA Co-Chair indicated, however, that the health reform proposal advanced yesterday by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), with reduced cuts to seniors' Medicare funding, "appears to be a somewhat better approach, although we are still examining the details."

To underscore the serious consequences of sharp cuts to long term care funding, Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs) from Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, and a family member whose mother resides in a Florida nursing home joined Cantrell and the leadership of NAHCA in calling on Congress to reconsider the ill advised Medicare cuts.

The CNAs said the Medicare cuts included in the reform bill are compounded by an additional $12 billion cut to Medicare through a regulatory rule taking effect October 1, 2009 -- just days after the convention adjourns. "The devastating collision of regulatory and possible legislative cuts puts more than 59,000 caregiver jobs at risk nationally, and threatens the quality of care delivered to the nation's most vulnerable seniors," Cantrell said at the news conference.

NAHCA is a non-profit organization working to ensure that the highest quality of care is provided to seniors living in nursing homes, achieved by elevating the professional standing and performance of the caregivers. NAHCA was established in July 2006 to meet the growing needs of all health care assistants, including those in non geriatric facilities. Today, the association has a membership of more than 20,000 caregivers representing over 500 nursing homes in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

SOURCE National Association of Health Care Assistants
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