THCA Testimony Warning Lawmakers About Dangers of Proposed $25.6 Million Medicaid Cuts Echoed By Full Page Austin American Statesman Print Ad

Jun 24, 2010, 11:43 ET from Texas Health Care Association

Texas Long Term Care Leader, AAS Print Ad Simultaneously Warn State Leaders' Proposed Medicaid Cuts Put Seniors' Care at Risk, Place Texas Jobs in Jeopardy; Rural Seniors, Facilities Face Unique Challenges

AUSTIN, Texas, June 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In testimony this morning before the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging, the President of the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) warned that Texas leaders' proposal to slice Medicaid-funded nursing home care and services by $25.6 million will place the care needs of the state's most vulnerable seniors at risk, and jeopardize the very frontline care jobs that help make the key difference in patient outcomes. The testimony by THCA President Tim Graves was echoed by a full-page ad in today's Austin American Statesman to help amplify the message that new state Medicaid cuts from Austin coming on top of recent federal Medicare cuts from Washington, D.C. will significantly undermine the care of lawmakers' oldest constituents.

In praising Aging Committee Chairman, Sen Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-27), for his work to focus attention on issues of importance to seniors and the provider community, Graves testified that, "The impact of continued Medicaid and Medicare funding cuts is a growing squeeze on Texas seniors' care benefits. This funding squeeze is also impacting providers' ability to recruit and retain quality caregivers. In addition to putting key frontline care jobs at risk, the worsening Medicare and Medicaid cost squeeze inhibits facilities' continued investment in cost effective care, and is directly at odds with our state and national health policy goals."

The text of the corresponding AAS print ad (available for view at is as follows:

As part of national health care reform, Washington just cut nearly $15 billion in seniors' Medicare-funded nursing home benefits - the vital funds needed to sustain high quality care and preserve key staff jobs in communities throughout Texas.

Strong staffing is the foundation of quality patient care and our local jobs base.

But now - even after deep new federal cuts - state leaders have wrongly proposed cutting Texas seniors' state Medicaid funding an extra $25.6 million. With Texas already 49th lowest in seniors' Medicaid funding, lawmakers need to ask themselves how they can justify jeopardizing

quality care, good local jobs, and the rehabilitative care that allows increasing numbers of their elderly constituents to return home?

Also testifying before the Committee was Greg Lentz, Chair of THCA, and President and CEO of Healthmark -- which delivers skilled nursing care to approximately 800 residents in eight facilities in and around the Houston area. Lentz noted that because of the quality skilled nursing care afforded to residents in his facilities, "We are able to send more than 50 percent of our admissions back into the community - achieving quality outcomes that ten years ago were provided for in the more expensive hospital setting. Our long term care residents are with us as they need 24/7 care that cannot be safely or effectively provided in a home health care setting."

The THCA Chair said facilities are taking on sicker and sicker patients, while Medicaid and Medicare funding are being simultaneously reduced. "Older and sicker residents require more intensive care, which means more resources are devoted to their care - both labor and non labor - and that means more money spent per resident over time. Put simply, our costs in treating these sicker patients are rising at the same time that our funding levels are falling dramatically. And if the current funding shortfalls continue, some of our patients may have to go back to hospitals for care."

Lentz also pointed out the significant challenges faced by rural facilities as state and federal funding challenges loom large on their operational viability: "The challenges in rural areas are striking. While staffing issues are prevalent statewide, finding and recruiting qualified caregivers in small communities is even more difficult. In many cases, the town's nursing home is the largest local employer and a major part of the economy, but the towns themselves are shrinking and people are moving elsewhere." Since 2006, he noted, a little over one-third of Texas nursing facilities forced to close have been rural facilities.

Founded in 1950, the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) is the largest long term care association in Texas. THCA represents a broad spectrum of long-term care providers and professionals offering long term, rehabilitative and specialized health care services. Member facilities, owned by both for-profit and non-profit entities, include nursing facilities, specialized rehabilitation facilities, and assisted living facilities.

SOURCE Texas Health Care Association