AQNHC: GOP Wrong to Target Seniors' Nursing Home Funding as Student Loan Pay-For

New Medicaid Cut Proposal on Top of Recent $3 Billion Medicare Reduction Represents Disturbing Pattern of Targeting SNF Patient Care

Jun 06, 2012, 12:51 ET from Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care (AQNHC) today said a proposal by Republican congressional leaders to cut the Medicaid provider tax threshold in 2013 to offset impending student loan interest rate increases represents a disturbing pattern of targeting vulnerable seniors' skilled nursing facility (SNF) care.

"This new Republican Medicaid proposal coming on the heels of at least $3 billion in Medicare cuts in February -- and after 40 states have either cut or frozen SNF Medicaid payments since 2009 -- is ill-advised, and overlooks our patents' unique vulnerability to repeated Medicaid and Medicare funding cuts," said Alan G. Rosenbloom, President of AQNHC. "Off-the-cuff proposals that put the well being of the nation's most vulnerable seniors in jeopardy warrant strong opposition on both principle and policy grounds."

A recent Avalere Health analysis detailing the negative impact on SNFs resulting from so called "bad debt" provisions passed in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 found the provisions will cut SNF payments by at least $3 billion over the FY 2012-21 budget window. A separate Avalere Health study found 40 states have either cut or frozen seniors' Medicaid-financed nursing home care between 2009 and 2011, and underscores the inherent volatility of nursing home payment rates.

The Alliance leader pointed out the SNF sector is already slated to absorb another $48 billion in Medicare reductions between FY 2012-21, and that SNFs also remain disproportionately reliant on Medicaid as compared to other providers -- with Medicaid paying for 57 percent of patient days. SNFs face yet another $782.3 million in additional FY 2014 Medicare cuts in January 2013 due to the sequestration threat.

"Medicare and Medicaid populations overlap in the SNF setting, and facilities budget their shrinking resources based on revenues from all payers," Rosenbloom observed. "Operating margins for SNFs remain the lowest of any healthcare sector, and for the benefit of patient care and workforce stability, we urge Congress to take this into account when considering Medicaid and Medicare payment policy."

Moving forward on the 2012 policy front, the Alliance leader said SNFs already play a key role in the swiftly evolving care continuum, and are poised to play a still greater role if Congress acts to rationalize the nation's Medicare post-acute payment system. In a recent Inside Health Policy news article, Rosenbloom and Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson detail the need for coordinated governmental SNF funding policy to help achieve greater efficiency in Medicare spending and improve quality.

"At a time when patients and taxpayers would benefit from increased utilization and investment in SNFs, the repeated and disproportionate cuts inflicted on the sector are illogical and wrong," Rosenbloom concluded. 

Contact: Ellen Almond

SOURCE Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care