Providers press for extension of Medicaid increase

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FMAP. FMAP. FMAP. That was the theme of today's congressional briefing session at the American Health Care Association's annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Extending the increase in the FMAP, or federal medical assistance percentage, is the hot topic for the long-term care community and healthcare community at large. The Senate is expected to continue debate Wednesday on legislation that would extend the FMAP through June 2011. The increase, which was part of the stimulus package, currently is slated to end Dec. 31.

AHCA leaders, including President and CEO Bruce Yarwood, Vice Chair Neil Pruitt Jr., and Dave Hebert, senior vice president of policy and government relations, emphasized the importance of extending the increase, which would temporarily give states enhanced Medicaid support.

"Every state's in deep trouble," Yarwood told members in a ballroom of the Hyatt Regency hotel near Capitol Hill.  "FMAP is going to be huge to fill a bunch of budget holes, budget gaps around the country."

The legislation, which is a substitute amendment to the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (H.R. 4213), gives lawmakers a second shot at passing the increase extension. The House earlier this month passed H.R. 4213 but without the extension of the FMAP increase.

"We thought this was going to be a done deal," Hebert said in his remarks to members, adding, "Ultimately, here we are again."

He noted that if the Senate passes this amendment the whole bill, which contains the partial so-called "doc fix, goes to the House again for a vote because it would be a new bill.  Hebert also talked about the Nursing Home Patient & Medicaid Assistance Act of 2010 (H.R. 5457), which would help provide Medicaid relief when the FMAP increase expires. AHCA wants Congress to cosponsor the legislation or introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

Stay tuned for more on Medicaid ...

Lifetime achievement

Yarwood, who is stepping down as head of the organization at the end of the year, received a surprise visit from Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) at today's briefing. Cardin, who sneaked in as Yarwood was about to give his remarks, presented his friend of 24 years with the Joe Warner Lifetime Achievement Award.

Presenting him with the honor, Cardin called Yarwood "a real professional" and someone who's "given his all to public service."

Yarwood has managed to impress both Republicans and Democrats, Cardin said.

"We agree on Bruce Yarwood and the type of professionalism he brought to Capitol Hill," Cardin said.

He also said Yarwood has "the highest degree of integrity."

Following Cardin's remarks, Yarwood said he was surprised to see Cardin and receive the award. 

"Almost speechless, but not quite," Yarwood said, before launching into a small speech about the need for the FMAP increase.

Clearly, Yarwood's not thinking about retirement yet.

Road trip

To raise awareness about the needs of nursing home providers, AHCA this month will host a coast-to-coast RV tour. It will make more than 60 stops in 40 states, Pruitt said. Yarwood also has agreed to drive some of the way. The tour will end in Long Beach, CA, in October at AHCA's fall conference, Pruitt said.

Not a bad way to kick off summer—and keep attention on long-term care.

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 Emily Mongan.

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