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Posted by madfloridian in General Discussion
Sun Sep 25th 2011, 12:37 AM
Financial games will harm elderly

First, President Obama's federal health-care reform expanded coverage to millions of Americans through extreme cuts in Medicare - $14.6 billion from the care of those in nursing homes nationally over 10 years. Pennsylvania nursing homes' share of this cut approaches $1 billion.

Making matters worse, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced it was slashing Medicare payments to nursing homes by 11.1 percent - $3.9 billion in one year alone. In our commonwealth, among the nation's oldest states by population, nursing homes will lose up to $300 million annually. New Jersey will lose a similar amount. These draconian cuts in Medicare alone now threaten seniors' care and the jobs of those who provide these services in both states.

Nonetheless, members of the debt supercommittee - including U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) - are discussing more Medicare cuts in their quest to identify $1.5 trillion in debt savings. If the committee does not act by Dec. 23, Medicare payments will be cut automatically by an additional 2 percent, costing our commonwealth's nursing homes an additional $500 million.

These daunting Medicare numbers, unfortunately, tell only half the story.

Both the supercommittee and the White House are also looking to find savings from inadequately funded Medicaid programs by reducing the federal matching requirements and almost halving or eliminating "provider assessments" that help 38 states fund, with federal dollars, quality long-term care services for seniors and people with disabilities. In Pennsylvania, that program generates $434 million that directly funds quality nursing-home care, while in New Jersey it provides about $155 million.

That's like being hit from all directions while the powers that be are saying that they are only cutting payments to providers...that it would not affect beneficiaries. That sounds pretty clueless to me. They expect us to believe that.

The New York Times points out that while many Republicans are pleased with these cuts, some Democrats are speaking out against them.

Democrats See Perils on Path to Health Cuts

Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat of Missouri, had this to say.

By offering such proposals, Mr. Cleaver said, the president “cancels out any bludgeoning that Democrats might give the Republicans over Medicare and Medicaid.”

Very true. The president took a powerful weapon out of the hands of the Democrats.

By contrast, Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the senior Democrat on the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is nervous about further health care savings to be proposed by the White House. “Medicare and Medicaid cannot sustain additional cuts, whether in benefits or provider payments,” Mr. Pallone said.

Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said now might not be the best time to consider changes in the health program. “We ought to let the innovations in the new health care law take hold,” Ms. Schwartz said. “They can save significant dollars in the long term by reducing medical errors and complications and improving the quality of care.”

Sander Levin had something to say as well.

In a separate memorandum, Mr. Levin said Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee would soon have a private meeting to discuss “the case we will make against cuts to entitlement programs.”

Next week come the 11.1% cuts to nursing homes providing recovery therapy to elderly patients not quite ready to be on their own.

Nursing home operators are now looking for ways to cut spending in preparation of Medicare budget cuts that will take effect Oct. 1. The 11.1% rate slash will be applied to Medicare reimbursements paid to nursing home facilities that provide post-acute care and the news is shaking industry at all levels. Industry stock prices plummeted on the news, plans for new facilities are being abandoned and large facility operators are scrambling to offset what will amount to tens of millions of dollars in unreimbursed costs.

There's not much that the president, the CMS, or the Super Committee can do that will harm the very rich in any way. There is much they can and are doing to the most vulnerable in our society.

Priorities are out of order.

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