Nursing home lobbyists urge lawmakers for change but don't expect long-term care reform

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Bruce Yarwood, AHCA CEO
Bruce Yarwood, AHCA CEO
Hundreds of nursing home owners and operators blitzed congressional buildings in Washington on Thursday, pressing lawmakers for better Medicare payments, a halt to post-acute payment bundling system talk and other improvements. But one thing they weren't expecting to make much progress on was long-term care reform.

Because Congress is already trying to tackle the issue of universal healthcare coverage, there won't be enough time for long-term care reform to be addressed, said American Health Care Association President and CEO Bruce Yarwood.

"The accordion will be closed rather than open for a whole lot of things," including long-term care reform, Yarwood told McKnight's during his group's annual Congressional Briefing meeting in Washington.

Providers have an "awesome responsibility of carrying the word to Capitol Hill," Yarwood told approximately 300 members Wednesday during the opening session at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. Their biggest challenge, he said, is trying to fend off a newly proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that would slash $1.05 billion in Medicare funding for skilled nursing facilities in fiscal 2010.

Another hot-button topic at the briefing was the Medicare post-acute payment bundling system, which as it stands would give hospitals the responsibility for managing funding for post-acute episodes. Dave Hebert, chief lobbyist with AHCA, said lawmakers should "go slow" and implement a demonstration project before heading full-throttle into such a project.

Other key issues Hebert said providers should question lawmakers about included: low Medicaid funding and harmful Part D co-payments for assisted living facilities; a bill that would invalidate pre-dispute arbitration agreements, and nursing homes' "Five-Star" rating system. He also warned that Congress could try to pay for some aspects of healthcare reform by cutting Medicare market-basket rates.
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