Monday, April 6, 2009

Medicaid Funding Cuts Threaten Quality Care for Nearly 80,000 Frail, Elderly Floridians Living in Nursing Homes‏

From the Senate Dems:

The quality of care and life for nursing home residents and the financial stability of Florida's 700 nursing homes are at risk as Florida legislators discuss cuts to Medicaid funding that supports nursing home care. Today Senator Nan Rich (D-Weston) joined Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) Chair Deborah Franklin and other elder care advocates to urge legislators to use federal stimulus dollars as they were intended – for health and human services – and not cut funds for nursing home care. While the Senate has proposed $81 million and the House has proposed $69 million in funding cuts to the Medicaid program, at the same time they are taking over $780 million of federal stimulus dollars designated for health care and redirecting them into other areas.

“Nursing homes cannot be treated as just another line item in the state budget,” said Deborah Franklin, FHCA Chair. “Washington has provided the much-needed relief…we cannot allow these millions of dollars in cuts to nursing home care.”

Franklin noted the solution that passed in the January 2009 special session to help the state fund nursing home care. The passage of SB 8-A created the Quality Assessment Program, whereby providers began self-imposing a 5.5 percent assessment on April 1, 2009 to allow the state to draw down more than $390 million in federal money. This is in addition to the $4.2 billion that Florida Medicaid will receive in federal stimulus dollars over the next 27 months.

“Florida legislators have no reason to impose these cuts when the funding is available through the federal stimulus package. They are simply unnecessary and unacceptable and threaten to undo relief from the Quality Assessment Program, as well, which has barely begun to take effect,” Franklin said.

Long term care facilities support nearly 272,800 jobs in Florida. Two-thirds of nursing home costs pay for staff salaries and benefits. Funding cuts could result in thousands of layoffs to workers who provide quality of life services to residents. Remaining staff would have more to do, leading to stress, burn-out and staff turnover.

“We have witnessed a dramatic improvement in nursing home care, and that’s a credit to the hard work of the nurses and CNAs who do health care’s toughest job,” said Senator Rich. “Our state is in a fiscal crisis that is soon to turn into a moral crisis if we continue cutting critical services for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Franklin noted that the elder care reform (SB 1202) that passed in 2001 that required increased minimum staffing standards has resulted in dramatic improvements to nursing home quality. Florida hired over 12,000 nurses and CNA positions over the past eight years, and today has among the highest ratio of staff-to-resident care in the nation. Maintaining steady quality improvements for resident care is a goal strongly supported by elder care advocates including AARP, Florida Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, Florida Catholic Conference, Florida CHAIN and the Service Employees International Union, among others.

The proposed cuts also include the permanent elimination of price level increases, which will invalidate the current State Plan approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services which provides for annual inflationary increases.

“Nursing homes cannot control our rising fuel, utility or insurance costs,” Franklin urged. “The burden these cuts will impose will go back on people – the frail elderly who live in nursing homes and the people who do the work of long term care.”

Medicaid payments are insufficient to cover the costs associated with providing quality care to a nursing home resident. Along with 24-hour skilled nursing care, facilities also provide food, shelter and a wide variety of social and quality of life services. Florida’s nursing homes are required to take a certain percentage of Medicaid patients as a condition of license.

“Facilities need resources to do the important job of taking care of our state’s frail elders,” Franklin said. “Legislators must develop long-term solutions to provide a stable funding source that covers the health care needs of these individuals.”

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