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Sen. Pat Roberts Praised by AHCA, Alliance for Urging Halt to Proposed CMS Rule
Date:4/9/2008

New Letter to CMS Says Rule Implementation Will Cut Medicare Funding, 'Create Serious Instability' in Skilled Nursing Sector

WASHINGTON, April 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Health Care Association (AHCA) and Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care today praised and thanked U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) for writing a new letter urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to forego implementation of a proposed rule that cuts Medicare Resource Utilization Group (RUG) rates by $4.7 billion over five years.

In addition to warning how federal Medicare cuts negatively affect the viability of state-administered Medicaid programs, especially during a recession, the cuts, he says, "will create serious instability" in the skilled nursing sector as well as "jeopardize the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries and the quality of life for their caregivers."

Says Senator Robert's letter to CMS Acting Administrator, Kerry Weems: "CMS is proposing rulemaking to cut $4.7 billion over five years in payments to SNFs. In a proposed rule, expected later this year, CMS intends to cut Medicare Resource Utilization Group (RUG) rates. I am concerned about the impact these cuts would have on America's most vulnerable seniors. My concern stems from the fact that SNFs already lose an average of $13 per day when caring for Medicaid patients, and the situation is expected to worsen as states are forced to cut spending due to recession.

"Medicare payments are critical to shoring up inadequate Medicaid spending and ensuring access to quality care. Therefore, I am concerned these regulations promulgated without legislative input would have a devastating impact on an industry that serves seniors across the country."

Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of AHCA, said Roberts' point about CMS circumventing congressional oversight in implementing regulatory changes is a paramount concern, and the wrong way to formulate policy. "The process that best serves patients, caregivers and the public at large is that which ensures maximum accountability and transparency. Unilaterally implementing major policy changes without proper scrutiny and debate is wrong for our seniors and the caregivers who serve them. We thank Senator Roberts for writing his letter, and for ensuring CMS understands why and how its proposed rule is flawed on so many substantive levels."

Alan Rosenbloom, President of the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, praised Roberts for pointing out that SNFs increasingly care for high-acuity, post-acute patients, and that federal Medicare payment policy should reflect this fact. "As the nature of our SNF patient population continues to change and evolve, it is incumbent upon the federal government to help, not hinder, the ability of facilities to accommodate the care needs of high-acuity, post-acute Medicare beneficiaries. The CMS rule cutting RUG rates is completely contrary to this basic principle, and ignores to the detriment of America's most vulnerable seniors the rapidly changing Medicare post-acute marketplace."

Concludes Roberts' letter: "I urge you to not proceed with the proposed regulatory action cutting RUG payments for SNFs. Medicare cuts of this magnitude will create serious instability in the nation's skilled nursing care system and undermine ongoing efforts to continue to improve quality."

The complete text of letter is available at http://www.ahca.org or http://www.aqnhc.org.


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SOURCE The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care
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