Nursing homes supported by amendment in stimulus bill

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It’s been an anxious time on Capitol Hill as the highly anticipated stimulus package has suffered a head-on collision with partisan gridlock over spending.

But the long-term care community can be grateful for small favors. Today Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) offered an amendment that prohibits states from being eligible for the $87 billion in Medicaid funds if they reduce seniors’ eligibility standards, benefits, or if they reduce provider payments.

As Republicans fight to reduce spending in the bill, it is heartening to know that a fiscal stalwart such as Grassley is backing up payments for nursing homes. This amendment helps to soothe providers’ fears that states would receive Medicaid funding and, at the same time, cut entitlements to facilities.

As of this writing, senators were working to reduce the $900 billion spending bill by $100 billion. So far, $87 billion of much-needed Medicaid dollars to states is still intact in the legislation. And now Grassley’s amendment further insulates nursing homes from reductions.

Labor wars

Of course, the stimulus package represents just round one. Nursing homes are already gearing up for another fight (post-stimulus) over the controversial card-check legislation. Such a bill would make it easier for workers to unionize by eliminating the current requirement of secret ballot elections. It's an understatement to say that most owners of nursing homes would prefer that the bill not be passed.

President Obama already has indicated where he stands with organized labor after he implemented several pro-union measures last week.

And the nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) for secretary of the Department of Labor adds fuel to the debate. She has supported a card-check measure in the past. But her confirmation hearing, which was scheduled for today, was postponed. Few details were offered on why it was delayed, but it occurred after USA Today reported that Solis’ husband had recently paid off $6,400 in tax liens on an auto shop he owns in Los Angeles.

That’s one battle to be left for another day.
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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 Emily Mongan.

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