Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reports Analyze Impact of House/Senate Nursing Home Funding Cuts; Quality Care for Vulnerable Seniors at Risk

The steady gains in nursing home quality improvement and the financial stability of Florida's nearly 700 nursing homes are at risk as Florida legislators discuss Medicaid funding cuts to nursing home care. Currently, the Senate has proposed a $144 million cut and the House a $202 million cut to nursing homes. Some counties will experience as much as $23 million in reductions as shown in the recent reports by the Florida Health Care Association, which outline by Senate and House districts the estimated nursing home rate reductions, including a county-by-county analysis and facility-specific impact.

“We understand the challenges our Legislature is facing as they work to address the state’s significant budget shortfall, but we simply cannot put nursing home quality care at risk,” said Emmett Reed, Executive Director of the Florida Health Care Association, the state’s first and largest advocacy organization for Florida long term care providers. “These cuts would also negatively impact caregiver jobs and limit future access to quality long term care services, putting at risk our state’s ability to position itself as a future retirement destination for aging baby boomers. We simply cannot make tough times even tougher for our state’s most vulnerable seniors.”

Nursing homes are extremely sensitive to Medicaid rate reductions, since nearly 60 percent of residents rely on Medicaid to cover the cost of their long term care services. Medicaid often fails to cover the actual cost of providing nursing home care, with facilities losing an average of $11.87 a day or just over $280,000 per year. The Legislature’s proposed cuts would result in over one-third of Florida’s facilities experiencing negative margins, and nearly 50% of all facilities would face margins of less than 2.5%. With the majority of Florida’s nursing homes mandated by a minimum Medicaid patient occupancy requirement, facilities which are already operating at a deficit when it comes to Medicaid residents will have no ability to recoup from these significant reductions.

Additionally, wages and employee benefits, as well as energy, fuel, property taxes and other fixed costs, have increased at rates greater than Medicaid reimbursement. The Legislature’s proposed cuts are compounded by the elimination of the normal inflationary increases for facilities. Furthermore, seventy percent (70%) of nursing home operating costs are attributed to people working in facilities – nurses, CNAs and others – which means lack of adequate funding could result in job losses, putting resident quality care at risk. “Nursing homes are already doing more with less,” said Reed. “If Medicaid funding is cut, staff layoffs may occur, which would mean less available hands to do the critical work of caring for residents.”

“We urge Florida legislators to make funding decisions based upon the need to protect elderly constituents’ care and preserve good paying local jobs,” said Reed. “Quality in Florida’s nursing homes is good, and we want to keep it that way.”

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