Today, as legislators considered millions in funding cuts to nursing home care, Senator Nan Rich (D-Weston) and Rep. Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach) joined Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) Chair Deborah Franklin, Leslie Spencer of AARP, Cloreta Morgan of SEIU and other elder care advocates to urge legislators to use federal stimulus dollars as they were intended – for health and human services – and not cut funds for nursing home care. Currently, the Senate had proposed $81 million and the House $69 million in funding cuts to the Medicaid program, while taking over $780 million of federal stimulus dollars designated for health care and redirecting them into other areas.
“Nursing homes cannot be treated as just another line item in the state budget,” said Deborah Franklin, FHCA Chair. “Washington has provided the much-needed relief…we cannot allow these millions of dollars in cuts to nursing home care.”
Franklin noted during today's event that the solution for funding nursing home care passed in the January 2009 special session with the Quality Assessment Program. Providers began self-imposing a 5.5 percent assessment on April 1, 2009 to allow the state to draw down more than $390 million in federal money. This is in addition to the $4.2 billion that Florida Medicaid will receive in federal stimulus dollars over the next 27 months.
Florida legislators have no reason to impose these cuts when the funding is available through the federal stimulus package. They are simply unnecessary and unacceptable and threaten to undo relief from the Quality Assessment Program, as well, which has barely begun to take affect,” Franklin said.
“We have witnessed a dramatic improvement in nursing home care, and that's a credit to the hard work of the nurses and CNAs who do health care's toughest job,” said Senator Nan Rich. “Our state is in a fiscal crisis that is soon to turn into a moral crisis if we continue cutting critical services for our most vulnerable citizens.”
Rich and Franklin both noted that the elder care reform (SB 1202) that passed in 2001 that required increased minimum staffing standards has resulted in dramatic improvements to nursing home quality. Florida hired over 12,000 nurses and CNA positions over the past eight years, and today has among the highest ratio of staff-to-resident care in the nation. Maintaining steady quality improvements for resident care is a goal strongly supported by elder care advocates including AARP, Florida Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, Florida Catholic Conference, Florida CHAIN and the Service Employees International Union, among others.