Tuesday, March 5, 2013

FHCA Unveils 2013 Long Term Care Legislative Priorities

Ensuring stable Medicaid funding for Florida nursing facilities, residents and caregivers tops agenda

Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), the state’s largest and leading advocacy organization representing long term care providers and the elders under their care, today announced its priorities for the 2013 legislative session. Topping the Association’s list will be to ask legislators to begin restoring Medicaid funding that has been cut from nursing facility (aka nursing homes) quality care over the past several years. Since 2008, Medicaid rates for nursing facility care have been reduced by $696.4 million, causing an average loss to facilities of $22.81 per patient per day ($550,000 annually).

“Long term care providers continue to struggle with operating costs, such as skilled labor and the increased use of medical technologies, which exceed Medicaid reimbursements,” said Emmett Reed, Executive Director of Florida Health Care Association. “With 60 percent of nursing facility residents relying on Medicaid as their health care safety net, adequate Medicaid funding is critical to ensuring our state’s seniors continue to have access to quality long term care services.”

As an alternative option to reduce pressure off the state’s growing Medicaid budget, FHCA and its members will also advocate for legislation which will give seniors an alternative means for paying for their long term care services while offering savings for the state's Medicaid program and, in turn, Florida taxpayers. Senate Bill 794, sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes, and House Bill 535, sponsored by Representative Jimmy Patronis, allow seniors to use the value of their life insurance policies to pay for much needed Medicaid long term care services.

Due to the Medicaid spend-down path, seniors currently in need of Medicaid long term care services must either cash surrender or outright abandon their policies. By allowing seniors to use the value of their life insurance policies to pay for much needed Medicaid long term care services, SB 794 will give seniors more choice, including whether to receive care at home for a longer period of time or cover their nursing facility care costs if that type of medical care is more appropriate. According to a study by Florida State University Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis (Jan. 2013), this option could help between 2,645 and 2,879 seniors with covering their long term health care needs each year, saving the state and taxpayers between $79 and $93.1 million.

"We believe this legislation is a win-win solution that will save taxpayer dollars while preserving the funding facilities need for care delivery and maintaining a stable workforce,” noted Reed.

A third priority for long term care providers is to bring fairness to nursing facilities in Florida’s court system. Legislation filed by Sen. Bill Galvano (SB 1384) and Rep. Bill Hagar (HB 869) will strike a balance to ensure those who need redress have access to the courts while ensuring that those not directly involved in providing care – investors, creditors and other individuals who have no role in the alleged act – are not included in nursing home claims. Corporate law does not allow this to occur in other business litigation; doing so raises the cost of defending a suit, artificially raises the settlement value of the claim and discourages much-needed investment in senior facilities.

“Rising liability costs add to the chronic funding challenges already facing the long term care sector,” Reed continued. “Our members are committed to caring for Florida’s most frail elders at a high level of quality they expect and deserve. Reckless accusations by trial lawyers divert valuable time, attention and resources and unfairly tarnish the reputation of a trusted, high-quality facility.”

Throughout the 2013 legislative session, over 500 long term care advocates will converge on Florida’s Capitol to educate lawmakers about these and other important long term care issues. To learn more about FHCA’s 2013 legislative priorities, find resources to advocate for protecting Medicaid funding for nursing facility care and learn more about being involved in FHCA’s Safeguard Our Seniors grassroots campaign, visit www.safeguardourseniors.org.

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