Providers blast CMS chief's budget testimony

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Striking a familiar theme but lashing out at a new target, the nation's largest nursing home association ripped testimony by the leader of its biggest funding source Tuesday.

The Bush administration's 2008 budget proposal is "far off course," warned the leader of the American Health Care Association. He made his comments after testimony by acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Leslie Norwalk before the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.

"We must make certain our Medicare and Medicaid programs are funded in a manner that ensures seniors' care quality will continue to improve. But in this regard, the administration's budget is far off course," warned Bruce Yarwood, AHCA's president and CEO. "The patchwork of Medicare and Medicaid financing mechanisms are intertwined and increasingly dysfunctional in the face of both the growing demand for care and the higher costs of providing that care."

The administration's budget calls for more than $10 billion in cumulative cuts to Medicare funding for skilled nursing facilities care over five years. Payments to nursing homes account for less than 5% of the proposed Medicare budget, but nursing homes would absorb more than 15% of this budget's proposed cuts, AHCA contends.

The administration's Medicare proposals would be "devastating to the financial stability so crucial to our sector's quality improvement successes," Yarwood said.