Long-term care associations to battle Medicare cuts during congressional recess

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AAHSA President and CEO Larry Minnix
AAHSA President and CEO Larry Minnix
Congress may take a recess this month, but the long-term care community isn't planning on it. Instead, the associations will be working to urge lawmakers not to cut millions in Medicare payments from nursing homes as part of healthcare reform.

"Our No. 1 mission is [to persuade Congress] not to take away the market basket," Larry Minnix, president and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, told McKnight's.

A House healthcare reform proposal would trim $33 billion to $44 billion in Medicare payments to nursing homes over the next 10 years. The House has not passed this bill. Minnix said his organization is also trying to keep these cuts out of Senate healthcare reform legislation. Both chambers plan to resume discussions on healthcare reform in September.

Meanwhile, the American Health Care Association, the largest nursing home association, will launch a grass roots effort over the next five weeks to oppose Medicare reductions, said Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of AHCA. It will point out to lawmakers that the latest regulation from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services "is pretty onerous to us," he said.

The regulation, which was released on Friday, will cut Medicare payments to skilled nursing facilities by 1.1%, or $360 million, in fiscal year 2010, which starts on Oct. 1. As part of an adjustment to case-mix indexes (CMIs), CMS will cut payments to nursing homes by 3.3%, or $1.05 billion. It is offsetting that decrease with a 2.2%, or $690 million, increase in the market basket, or inflation adjuster.  

Yarwood said his association will discuss with lawmakers whether they would be willing to spread the cuts of 3.3% over a period of time. He, like Minnix, is also concerned about the planned cuts in the House bill, which he says, include the market-basket elimination and the 3.3% CMI reduction. Then there are the Medicaid challenges that states are facing, and other payment challenges.

Nursing homes are "looking down the barrel of a Gatling gun," he said.

"Around the country, differing states are feeling the pain of the recession," Yarwood said. He noted that the association plans to calculate the impact of planned Medicare and Medicaid reductions on patient care in each state.