Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)

The Senate Special Committee on Aging will convene tomorrow to discuss the inclusion of improvements to long-term care as part of overarching national healthcare reform.

Representatives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and various state healthcare agencies will talk about possible changes to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Panelists also will consider ways to better organize the country’s scattered system of long-term care services, according to a statement from Sen. Herb Kohl  (D-WI), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging. Thomas Hamilton, director of CMS’s survey and certification group, and Karen Timberlake, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, are among the hearing’s scheduled witnesses.

In advance of the hearing, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, for the first time ever, is conducting a Capitol call-in day today. Association officials, in conjunction with a number of other healthcare advocacy groups, are urging healthcare workers and members of the public to call and tell their representatives in Congress about the importance of long-term care reform efforts as part of a broader reform plan. Those wishing to participate can call (800) 958-5374 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

Meanwhile, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has officially given Congress its spending suggestions for 2010, which include stingy recommendations for skilled nursing facilities and hospice care programs. MedPAC recommends that Congress keep SNF and inpatient rehab facility reimbursements at their current levels, cut home healthcare services by 5.5%, and restructure the hospice reimbursement system to compensate for potentially inappropriate reimbursements for long periods of care.