Nursing Home Caregivers to Legislature: Texas Seniors Need and Deserve Medicaid Rate That Helps Preserve, Protect High Quality Care

Apr 16, 2013, 12:43 ET from Texas Health Care Association

At Capitol Visit, Skilled Nursing Caregivers Tell Texas Lawmakers Facility Staffing is Key to Quality Care; Full Page Austin American Statesman Ad Running Today to Help Boost Awareness of Rate Underfunding

AUSTIN, Texas, April 16, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nurses from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) across Texas gathered at the Capitol today to urge legislators to help preserve and protect high quality nursing home care for vulnerable seniors by properly adjusting the skilled nursing care Medicaid rate in accordance with Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) recommendations.

"Nurses who care for our elderly in nursing homes across Texas came to Austin today to show solidarity with our elderly residents and their family members, and to urge lawmakers to make us whole for the first time since 1999 by funding Medicaid to meet the actual cost of caring for our elderly," said Julie Sulik, RNC, THCA Nurse Council Chair.  "We care for 60,000 elderly and disabled Texas seniors dependent upon Medicaid, and our facilities simply cannot continue to operate at current staffing levels if Medicaid funding remains well below the actual cost of caring for our elderly."

The caregivers' message to lawmakers is that the HHSC consolidated budget outline for Medicaid spending in the 2014-2015 biennium will require a 16.84% rate increase -- $372 million in General Revenue (GR) and $925 million in all funds -- simply to meet the cost of caring for today's nearly 60,000 elderly and disabled Texans living in nursing homes.

The Texas House of Representatives passed SB 1 on April 4 without addressing nursing home care Medicaid rates – despite a $58 million Medicaid cut in 2011 and a $51 million Medicare cut this month.  A 2013 Texas Health Care Association (THCA) survey of facilities indicates staff lay offs and wage freezes are under active consideration in the wake of ongoing funding cuts. Specifically, the survey finds 84% of nursing homes may have to freeze wages, 75% may have to defer or reduce staff benefits, and 31% say they may have to lay off direct care staff in the wake of cumulative funding cuts.

"Over time, the operational stability of facilities across Texas has been significantly compromised by Medicaid and Medicare cuts, and it is critical for those who are determining state funding policies to hear firsthand how their local facilities and vulnerable constituents are being negatively impacted by a lack of adequate funding," Sulik continued.

Sulik noted a 4/15 Wall Street Journal story that helps detail the demographic challenge and the stakes involved:

The number of Americans 65 years and older is projected to reach 73 million in 2030, up from 40 million in 2010. Serving that growing population will require five million direct-care workers in 2020, up 48% from the 2010 level, according to U.S. government projections. 

"Those are daunting figures," Sulik noted, "We not only need to preserve frontline caregiver jobs now, we need encourage people to choose this noble profession of caring for our elderly in the future. We respectfully ask our legislators to make seniors' nursing home care and Medicaid funding adequacy a top priority in the final budget discussions."

About THCAFounded in 1950, the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) is the largest long-term care association in Texas. THCA's membership is comprised of several hundred licensed non-profit and for-profit skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), specialized rehabilitation facilities and assisted living facilities in Texas. These facilities provide comprehensive, around-the-clock nursing care for chronically ill or short-term residents of all ages, along with rehabilitative and specialized medical programs. THCA also represents more than 190 long-term care businesses that provide products and services to the state's approximately 2,850 nursing homes and assisted living facilities. To learn more, visit or connect with THCA on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

SOURCE Texas Health Care Association