Image of male nurse pushing senior woman in a wheelchair in nursing facility

Take a look at the top news stories on our Web site today and you’ll notice a common topic: healthcare reform.

That subject has captured the attention of federal lawmakers and the long-term care community.

“I think there’s a sincere effort to try to do something this year,” said Peter Clendenin, executive vice president of the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care. “I think the Congress has really stepped up and said if we don’t do it now we’ll miss the window of opportunity.”

And that window may not be open for long for long-term care either. As lawmakers take on healthcare reform, the time is ripe for nursing home providers to tell their side of the story, according to Larry Minnix, president and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

This week, he encouraged nonprofit providers at the AAHSA spring conference to do just that. Today, they were on Capitol Hill to remind lawmakers about the importance of including long-term care in the overall healthcare reform package.

It certainly would be foolish to omit long-term care, especially when you consider what the government is paying to fund nursing homes and other long-term care services. A recent Kaiser study found that long-term care consumes about one-third of Medicaid spending in the United States.

Lawmakers can’t deny that Medicaid is a crucial component of healthcare. To overlook this massive program is to ignore the challenge at the heart of the matter: Funding.

Clendenin said is concerned about how lawmakers plan to pay for possible changes. Lawmakers may try to significantly trim Medicare funds, such as those from Medicare Part A and the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, he said.

“I think health reform in general is necessary,” he said. The question is: Will Medicare pay for it? That’s something we’re watching really closely.”

And you should, too.

“Over the next four to six weeks it’s going to be a pretty dynamic time,” Clendenin said. “That’s when we’ll see this story unfold.”