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State, National Long Term Care Community Applauds Arkansas Leaders in U.S. Senate and U.S. House for Helping Lead Effort to Block $770 Million Bush Medicare Cuts

Bipartisan Efforts Oppose $6.5 Million Funding Cut to State's Medicare Beneficiaries

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., July 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Arkansas Health Care Association and the American Health Care Association (AHCA) today praised Senators Blanche Lincoln (D) and Mark Pryor (D) and Representatives Marion Berry (D-1st), Vic Snyder (D-2nd), John Boozman (R-3rd) and Mike Ross (D-4th) for helping lead efforts in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to prevent the Bush Administration from moving forward with regulatory-driven cuts to seniors' Medicare Part A nursing home funding -- cuts that will result in Arkansas' seniors losing $6.5 million in the year ahead.

Specifically, Sens. Lincoln and Pryor and Reps. Berry, Snyder, Boozman and Ross joined Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) and U.S. Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in a letter issued to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt. The letter expresses their "deep concern" that high-quality skilled nursing care for America's seniors will be threatened if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) moves forward with an administrative proposal -- in the coming weeks -- that would cut $770 million in Medicare funding for skilled nursing facility (SNF) care in 2009 and more than $4 billion over the next five years.

"It is highly significant that our state's leaders in Washington have joined the efforts in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House to speak out and oppose the Bush Administration's damaging Medicare funding reductions, and on behalf of Arkansas' Medicare beneficiaries and the providers who care for them, we thank them for doing so," said Randy Wyatt, Executive Vice President of the Arkansas Health Care Association. "These policymakers have objectively evaluated how these cuts will hurt Arkansas' Medicare beneficiaries, and are acting upon that determination to protect their elderly constituents."

Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association (AHCA), added, "Lawmakers of both parties, in both chambers, have stepped up to oppose the Bush Administration on this important health policy matter because it makes little sense to first hurt seniors' care, and then do so in a manner wasteful of tax dollars. This is bad, ill-considered policy from the Bush Administration, and the facts simply do not support proceeding with these Medicare funding cuts."

The state and national long term care leaders noted that existing Medicare policy was designed to encourage the movement of certain high-acuity Medicare beneficiaries to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). As a result, the site of care for a significant number of high acuity patients appropriately shifted to SNFs, and a recent independent analysis shows that this shift saved Medicare an estimated $709 million." (Source: Avalere Health, LLC)

The letter to HHS Sec. Leavitt joined by Sens. Pryor and Lincoln and Reps. Berry, Snyder, Boozman and Ross warns the planned Medicare changes "will jeopardize the significant quality improvements made by the SNF community in recent years as well as the ability of SNFs to continue caring for high acuity patients. We believe that if CMS were to finalize its proposed rule, the ability of providers to care for our nation's most vulnerable population -- the frail elderly and disabled -- would be severely threatened."

The complete text of the letter to HHS Sec. Leavitt and list of co-signers available at

Arkansas Health Care Association (AHCA) is the advocacy group for owners of more than 95 percent of the licensed long-term care facilities in Arkansas. AHCA works to promote the highest quality of care for patients of long-term care facilities, to develop the highest professional standards for nursing home staff, and to foster harmony within the AHCA membership. The AHCA strives continually, in cooperation with the state Legislature and state Office of Long Term Care, to improve the quality of life in Arkansas nursing homes.

SOURCE Arkansas Health Care Association
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