State, National Long Term Care Leaders Warn DC "Fiscal Cliff" Places Texas Seniors' Nursing Home Care in Jeopardy

With Texas Legislative Session Just Weeks Away, Nursing Home Funding Warrants Top Priority as Concerns Mount For Sequestration-Driven Medicare Cuts

Dec 05, 2012, 14:39 ET from Texas Health Care Association

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With deep cuts to Texas seniors' Medicare-funded nursing home care just weeks away unless Congress and the Obama Administration reach a budget agreement to avoid sending seniors over the so-called "fiscal cliff," Texas Health Care Association (THCA) President Tim Graves and American Health Care Association (AHCA) President Mark Parkinson today said the importance of robust Medicaid funding in the 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature has never been more important.

"There is no question we have a growing level of concern about the rampant level of budgetary unpredictability in Washington, and the millions in new Medicare cuts that await seniors as we ring in the New Year makes it essential for Medicaid funding adequacy to be a top legislative priority when the Texas Legislature convenes in January," stated Tim Graves, President of the THCA, during a media teleconference with Parkinson. "A full 80 to 85 percent of Texas nursing home patients depend upon either Medicaid or Medicare funding, or both, for their care – and robust Medicaid funding here in Texas is essential."

Parkinson, the former Governor of Kansas prior to leading AHCA, stated, "The two percent cut that is part of sequestration comes on top of many other cuts our sector has already absorbed in the last year: health reform, regulatory-driven Medicare reductions, and more. Like our colleagues in Texas, our members across the nation are very concerned about how they will absorb another severe cut." Providers in Texas and elsewhere, he said, are operating on the thinnest of margins and already face a significant challenge coping with a multi-billion dollar Medicaid shortfall.

Graves said that as the legislative session approaches, he will urge state leaders this month to objectively keep in mind the significant challenges already facing Texas' nursing homes as they cope with $58 million state Medicaid funding reductions in 2011, $234 million in federal Medicare cuts in 2012, and the growing probability of new Medicare cuts if federal lawmakers cannot avert them in the next several weeks.

Said Graves: "Even if the President and Congress come to an agreement on averting the fiscal cliff, we will continue to make the point here in Austin that Medicaid was cut $58 million during the last legislative session, and that the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) just advised that Medicaid spending in the 2014-2015 biennium will require $925 million just to meet the cost of caring for the 60,000 Medicaid-dependent elderly and disabled Texans living in nursing homes. What does this really mean? It means Texas nursing homes and their patients are shouldering a nearly $1 billion burden in cumulative state government underfunding. That is wrong, and must be addressed during the Session."

The AHCA President and CEO said he understands that Congress must find ways to reduce federal spending and continue to fund a wide variety of programs, but that the long term care community should work together to find solutions that address underlying issues in the health care system. "For the longer term, we want to work with Congress to find solutions that will continue improving the quality of care for our nation's elderly and disabled while also driving down health care costs."

Concluded Parkinson, "Congress should consider productive methods to encourage efficiency in federal health programs, rather than arbitrarily cutting important programs, like Medicare and Medicaid."

Contact: Rebecca Reid 410/212-3843

SOURCE Texas Health Care Association