Stimulus bill gives nursing homes reason to smile

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It’s OK to crack a grin now that Congress has reached a tentative agreement on the colossal economic stimulus package. Nursing homes have a lot to be happy about.

Here’s why:

—The biggest bang of the package, of course, is the $87 billion in increased Medicaid funding. The House and Senate agreed to an across-the-board increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage of 6.2%, according to Susan Feeney, spokeswoman for the American Health Care Association. (That represents a compromise between the House and Senate versions, she said.) A bonus also will be paid to states that have high unemployment rates.

—Another piece of good news is that the bill delays moratoria for six harmful Medicaid rules that would limit funding to nursing homes. The delay buys Congress and the administration until the end of June to figure out a more permanent solution.

—Finally, the legislation contains a provision requiring prompt Medicaid payments to nursing homes and hospitals. Clean claims now have to be paid in 90 days. That alone is reason for providers to cheer.

Unfortunately, one battle nursing homes didn’t win was an amendment to the bill, introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), which would have prohibited states from reducing spending to providers even as they received Medicaid funds.

“Yes we would have preferred there was that Grassley amendment in there, but we understand Congress’ recognition not to tie the hands of the governors,” Feeney said.

All in all, there is more to praise than to criticize in the bill. So don’t be bashful about sharing your thoughts through letters to senators and representatives. And say "thank you." It took a lot of work to reach this point.

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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.