Campaign 2012 Has Boosted Importance and Value of Nursing Home Care in Public Policy Dialogue, AQNHC Leader Says

Nov 05, 2012, 10:32 ET from Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care

Presidential and Congressional Campaigns Helped Sharpen Focus on How Provider Cuts Also Hurt Patients; Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson Notes Important Role for SNFs in Helping Reduce Rehospitalizations

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- No matter who wins the White House tomorrow, the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care said the 2012 campaign issues terrain – with a prominent focus on seniors' care and its financing – has served to both boost the significance of nursing home care in the public policy dialogue, and to also help establish a framework enabling the next Congress to better assess individual providers' ability to offer the best value for various post-acute procedures at the lowest cost to taxpayers.

"Despite the customary complaints about negativity and the avalanche of TV ads, the 2012 campaign was unusually substantive from the standpoint of the entitlement reform discussion because both sides were required to make their best arguments about how we as a nation will protect seniors' Medicare funding in an era of unprecedented fiscal chaos," observed Alan G. Rosenbloom, President of the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, a coalition of 10 leading post-acute and long term care organizations providing Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) care in approximately 1,400 facilities, in 44 states nationwide.

"Not only was the importance of U.S. seniors' nursing home care specifically mentioned at both parties' political conventions and in TV ads, but seniors' Medicare and Medicaid funding issues in general -- and the broader problems for seniors caused by SNF cuts in particular -- were part of the discussion," Rosenbloom continued. "From our standpoint, the most important discussion of the entire campaign involved debunking the fallacy that Medicare cuts 'only' to nursing home providers will not also negatively impact beneficiaries themselves. We made headway this election cycle with members of both parties by taking this issue head-on with U.S. Senate and House candidates this summer."

The Alliance leader noted this issue gained still more prominence when Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Kenneth Thorpe of the bipartisan Partnership for the Future of Medicare penned a Politico oped noting it is "disingenuous to suggest that [nursing home] provider cuts will not impact beneficiaries." Holtz-Eakin and Thorpe also noted, correctly, that a recent 1.8% Medicare payment update from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for the nation's nursing homes will be "effectively wiped out" by sequestration – now less than two months away.

Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere, noted both presidential candidates articulated their commitment to maintaining progress on health system reforms: "As providers integrate and adopt quality goals, SNFs will play an important part in evolving to a quality-focused payment system -- including efforts to reduce re-hospitalizations," he observed. Avalere research, Mendelson noted noted, "has shown that effective integration of post-acute care is a pivotal aspect of caring for those dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid – a key population for policy makers."

Another major development during the campaign, Rosenbloom said, was a new Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article noting that knee replacements, and the extraordinary benefits they bring to patients, is up 161.5% among Medicare beneficiaries. However, the article reports, the $5 billion annual tab will continue to grow as America's 77 million Baby Boomers age. "In the final analysis, we believe the significant campaign focus on Medicare cost control will also foster an environment whereby lawmakers can take better stock of individual providers' ability to offer the best value and quality for various procedures -- at the best price point for taxpayers," Rosenbloom said.

Continued Rosenbloom, "A variety of providers are capable of delivering high quality rehab care, yet, the challenge – as well as the opportunity moving forward in terms of Medicare savings – is to help ensure the quality and cost advantages of the SNF rehab setting is more fully realized for procedures such as knee replacements, where this specific post acute care setting has inherent advantages."

The AQNHC leader concluded, "The next Administration and next Congress must examine more closely and objectively which providers can most optimally meet the growing demand for the critical rehabilitation care that sustains quality of life, independence, and, ultimately, lower costs to taxpayers. The 2012 election has clearly been beneficial in helping the U.S. nursing home sector elevate our value proposition profile, and to set the stage for the critical budget and policy debate ahead."

Contact: Ellen Almond 703/548-0019

SOURCE Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care