THCA: State Rates for Medicaid Nursing Home Funding "Too Low for Too Long"

May 01, 2013, 11:52 ET from Texas Health Care Association

Facilities Across Texas Continue to Struggle With Deep Medicaid, Medicare Cuts

AUSTIN, Texas, May 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With budget conferees locked in key negotiations over the final parameters and details of the state budget, the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) encouraged lawmakers to ensure Texas nursing homes and the vulnerable patients under their care receive the priority required to help cope with local facilities' operational instability in the wake of 2011's $58 million state Medicaid cut and last month's new $51 million federal Medicare cut.

"In our eyes, and in the eyes of our vulnerable patients and workforce struggling with a seemingly unending barrage of state and federal funding cuts, the most significant unfinished legislative business is addressing the fact rates for Medicaid nursing home care have been too low for too long," said Tim Graves, President of THCA. "It's just a fact rates are too low, and can no longer be ignored without significantly negative implications to patients and local jobs."

"It should be a priority to ensure Texas' most vulnerable frail, elderly and disabled Medicaid-dependent nursing home patients can continue to access the quality care they deserve by making sure local nursing homes across the state remain operationally stable in the face of deep Medicaid and Medicare cuts," he said.

The THCA leader encouraged conferees to examine the fact that local facilities in their districts are increasingly struggling with shrinking resources in the face of growing numbers of patients requiring the type of 24/7/365 care that can only be found in their local nursing home.

THCA, AARP Texas and other seniors' advocacy organizations have repeatedly noted Texas' nursing home reimbursement methodology recognizes inflation and the normal increases in business costs experienced by nursing home providers, but that the Legislature has failed since 1999 to fully fund those reasonable increases with appropriations.

Asked what actions they may be forced to consider in 2013 as a result of the worsening funding squeeze, a recent survey of Texas nursing homes finding that 84.3 % of facilities may have to freeze wages; 75% may have to defer, reduce or change staff benefits; 31.1% may have to lay off direct care staff; 18.4% may be forced to consider actually closing their facility.

Graves said the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) consolidated budget estimated that Medicaid spending in the 2014-2015 biennium would 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 Medicaid dependent elderly and disabled Texans living in nursing homes.

"We remain hopeful that ensuring common sense and fairness to our state's oldest, most vulnerable seniors will be one of the driving considerations in the remaining days and hours of the budget process," Graves concluded.

SOURCE Texas Health Care Association