Gaining muscle behind the moratorium

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Washington is working for long-term care for a change, or so it seems.

This week, by a vote of 46-0, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill that would delay the onset of seven Medicaid regulations until next year. Without intervention, the rules, some of which are scheduled to take effect in a matter of days and weeks, would significantly affect the amount of Medicaid dollars states deliver to nursing homes.

One particularly onerous rule set to go into effect this Tuesday would tighten the “hold harmless” test for allowable provider taxes. Basically, this rule makes it harder for states to implement these taxes, which nursing homes rely on to receive funding.

Another rule, whose moratorium expires on May 25, would limit the amount of Medicaid payments to public providers and narrow the definition of a public provider.

Lawmakers most likely are concerned about these rules, not only for the consequences they would have on the elderly and other vulnerable groups, but also because of their impact on states.

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform produced a report in March that revealed just how damaging these rules could be. While the administration has estimated that the regulations would lower state spending by $15 billion over the next five years, the committee determined that the regulations would reduce federal payments to states by nearly $50 billion over the same time frame.

Loss estimates include $7.4 million over five years in Ohio and $10.8 billion over that period in California. Adding muscle to the opposition, the nation’s governors also strongly disagree with these regulations.

Of course, it’s not time to rejoice yet. The White House has vowed to veto this legislation. But the committee’s unanimous vote represents that rare occasion of bipartisanship in Washington.

It also demonstrates lawmakers’ recognition of long-term care’s fiscal needs. You can’t take that for granted either.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.