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State, National Long Term Care Community Applauds New Hampshire Leader in U.S. Senate for Helping Lead Effort to Block $770 Million Bush Medicare Cuts
Date:7/1/2008

Bipartisan Efforts Oppose $3.9 Million Funding Cut to State's Medicare Beneficiaries

CONCORD, N.H., July 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The New Hampshire Health Care Association (NHHCA) and the American Health Care Association (AHCA) today praised Senator John Sununu (R) for helping lead bipartisan efforts in the U.S. Senate to stop Medicare cuts from going into effect. To Senator John Sununu's great credit, he has resisted enormous pressure from the Bush Administration, and has taken a major bipartisan leadership role in Congress to stop these cuts from going into effect. Working with Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Norm Coleman (R-MN), Sen. Sununu recently joined a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Sec. Mike Leavitt, whose agency oversees Medicare regulations, urging a halt to the regulatory changes.

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 very important that our state's leaders in Washington join 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 New Hampshire's Medicare beneficiaries and the providers who care for them," said John Poirier, President and CEO of NHHCA. "Senator Sununu has objectively evaluated how these cuts will hurt New Hampshire's Medicare beneficiaries, and is acting upon that determination to protect his elderly constituents. We thank them for doing so."

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)

Their joint letter warns the Senators are "deeply concerned that high-quality skilled nursing care for America's seniors will be threatened - and reductions in spending of this magnitude would severely alter not only the quality of nursing home care, but also access to nursing home care for our nation's seniors." The letter also references AHCA's finding that the Medicare cuts will hurt our state economy, and cause New Hampshire to lose $8.8 million in total economic benefits, and $4.3 million in lost wages.

Furthermore, existing Medicare policy, as intended, is currently helping facilities throughout the state successfully serve higher acuity patients - at a lower cost than other care settings. Current Medicare policy, according to an independent analysis by Avalere Health, LLC, saved Medicare a substantial $709 million in 2006. In the final analysis, the Administration's ill considered change to Medicare policy would have unfortunate and unintended results both for patients and for the Medicare program itself - including diminished care for seniors and higher costs for taxpayers.

Fortunately, Senator Sununu recognizes on an independent, informed basis that the looming Medicare cuts are, plain and simple, bad policy that should not go into effect in the weeks ahead. He has stated for several years simply attempting to change Medicare at the margin without resolving how we pay for long term care, both in the Medicaid and Medicare, will not resolve the problem in the long term. Despite the pressure to support the Administration's Medicare initiative, the Senator deserves strong praise and recognition for putting New Hampshire first.

The complete text of the letter to HHS Sec. Leavitt and list of co-signers available at http://www.ahca.org.

New Hampshire Health Care Association (NHHCA) is the largest long-term care organization in the state of New Hampshire. We represent a group of more than 90 skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and intermediate care facilities for children with mental retardation (ICF/MR). The NHHCA is a strong and vocal advocate for quality long term care on behalf of our members, their employees, their residents and their resident's families. It is the mission of the Association to promote necessary and reasonable public policies, influencing society and government to invest in the well being of those entrusted into our care.


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SOURCE New Hampshire Health Care Association
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