Appearing in a hearing before the House Education and Workforce Committee on Thursday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius went to bat for the Obama administration’s entitlement reform plan in the Affordable Care Act. She also criticized Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) FY 2012 budget proposal, according to a report from The Hill.

Ryan’s plan would overhaul the Medicaid payment program, turning it into a block grant system for states — something long-term care providers strongly oppose. When Republican representatives asked for specifics on entitlement reform Thursday, Sebelius said ACA provisions call for a panel of independent experts that would recommend cuts on an individual basis. These suggested cuts would go into effect unless Congress blocked them. The panel would then recommend equivalent savings in other areas. Sebelius also described an HHS-created system for coordinating care for “dual eligibles,” or those individuals who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. These beneficiaries require the most expensive care and make up a disproportionate percentage of costs.

In conjunction with Sebelius’ testimony, the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care emphasized the need for provider-HHS collaboration in fighting last week’s administration proposal to lower Medicare payment rates to skilled nursing facilities by 11%. Alliance leader Alan G. Rosenbloom said legislators must consider several factors when making changes to Medicaid and Medicare. They include rising patient acuity, shrinking length of stay, escalating costs and plummeting state Medicaid funding.

“In addition to being a vital pillar of the U.S. economy and pivotal to badly-needed economic expansion, SNFs have invested heavily in recent years to increase capabilities to admit, treat and return to home a rapidly increasing number of patients requiring intensive post-acute rehabilitation and care for multiple chronic illnesses,” Rosenbloom said.