Friday, February 27, 2009

Duplication, duplication, duplication

Many legislators are interested in helping reduce the duplicative and unnecessary regulations that the public has to deal with every day. To that end, FHCA submitted a list of 9 suggestions to several legislators, and the resulting bill, SB 1562, has already hit the streets. Due to some bill drafting errors, there are still corrections that need to be made, but this bill is a good start to help save the state resources by eliminating duplicative regulations.

FHCA members can stay up-to-date on the progress of this bill and other Association legislative priorities by visiting the FHCA Members-Only Legislative Section.

Nursing Home Residents' Personal Needs Allowance

HB 455 has been filed by Representative Rick Kriseman (D-53) to increase the nursing home resident's Medicaid personal needs allowance from $35 to $70 per month. Senator Dan Gelber (D-35) has filed the companion bill, SB 1632. FHCA is very supportive of these bills, which are back for the second year in a row. They were not successful last year as the funding source proved controversial. We have talked to Rep. Krisemen, and he is very excited to have many members of leadership indicating their support of the bill and the promise to look for some possible funding source.

FHCA members are encouraged to let your legislators know how important these bills are for the residents in your building. Need help finding who represents your district?Visit Online Sunshine to find a list of your Representatives and Senators, as well as their contact information.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Governor Releases Budget as 2009 Legislative Session Gets Set to Begin

Florida's budget challenges continue to be the primary focus of legislators as we prepare to head into the 2009 regular session next week. Last week Governor Charlie Crist released the Governor’s Recommended Budget, which is normally transmitted a month before the session is scheduled to begin. An extension was requested by the Governor’s Office, and granted by House and Senate Leadership, to allow for inclusion of money designated for Florida by the federal stimulus package, which was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. Florida TaxWatch has released a new analysis of the Governor’s Recommended Budget, which can be found online.

As we prepare for the start of the 2009 regular session, FHCA will continue communicating with legislators about the importance of preserving Medicaid funding to support the 2.9 CNA hours of per patient care. We believe that the increased staffing standards that were mandated in 2001, and the accompanying funding, have greatly improved care for Florida's frail elders and citizens with disabilities in our nursing homes. By preserving the funding, facilities will have the resources they need to do their critically important work, quality care for residents will continue to improve, facilities can make much-needed renovations and our state can meet the growing demands that aging baby boomers will have on long term care through a strengthened health care workforce.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Legislative Update: February 16-20, 2009

This week legislators wrapped up the last of their committee meetings before the start of the regular session on March 3rd. Most of the time was spent on meetings regarding the budget and the federal stimulus package, with a few bills being filed.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) gave a presentation to the Senate's Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee on the impact of the federal stimulus package to Florida, which includes the FMAP increase. The Federal Medical Assistance Percentage is used in determining the amount of federal matching funds for the state's expenditures for assistance payments for certain social services, such as Medicaid. Florida is expected to see close to $3.5 billion for health care from the package, with its federal share of the match rising from the current 55% to 68%. The Committee also heard a presentation on Medicaid fraud and abuse, which costs the state significant dollars each year.

The House Health Care Appropriations Committee heard a presentation from AHCA on the Nursing Home Quality Assessment Program, which was created during the special session in January. The Assessment will help draw down additional federal dollars and allowed nursing homes to avert nearly $231 million in cuts to resident care funding. Instead the Assessment will restore the Medicaid funding cuts imposed on nursing homes in January 1, 2008 and January 1, 2009, as well as March 2009. The Assessment will become effective April 1, 2009 and will be calculated annually on a per-resident basis, exclusive of Medicare resident days. AHCA must seek a federal waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for this to occur and precautions are in place in case that waiver has not been approved.

A number of bills were filed this week that impact long term care providers in Florida. Deregulation, insurance, "therapeutic interchange," personal needs allowance and the use of video surveillance in nursing homes are among the top issues we are tracking. You can read more about these bills and FHCA's position on the issues, as well as other legislative activities happening on behalf of FHCA members by visiting our Members-Only Legislative Section.