Bush bombshell

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The president released his fiscal year 2009 budget on Monday, and it is more than a little tough on long-term care.

He is recommending $1 billion in Medicare cuts to nursing homes in 2009 and $17 billion over five years, an early analysis of the budget by the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care found. It represents an even bolder stroke than last year when he proposed slashing Medicare to skilled nursing facilities by more than $10 billion over five years.

What does this new blueprint mean for long-term care? Probably not much, since Congress is likely to disregard many, if not most, of his suggestions. Still, the president's calls for slashing Medicaid, freezing the market-basket update to skilled nursing facilities and paring down Medicare through regulations next year prompted long-term care providers to sound the alarm bells.

"This budget is the most unreasonable and unrealistic of President Bush's entire tenure in the White House," said Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association.

It "represents a double-whammy hit on the funding vital to ensure the continued provision of quality care," he added.

Other healthcare groups also reacted unfavorably towards the proposal, including the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care. Alan Rosenbloom, president of the Alliance, called the blueprint "far off the mark."

"The Administration's budget is shortsighted and largely ignores the new realities of the Medicare post-acute marketplace," Rosenbloom said.

Nothing is ever assured when it comes to federal and state funding -- particularly as a recession looms -- but let's hope that the suggestions in President Bush's budget don't rub off on lawmakers. If last year is any guide, his plans will not come to fruition.
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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.

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