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Lawmakers, Best Beware: Voters Oppose Cuts to Medicaid

By Pamela Jean
News | June 11, 2010

senior-citizen-walking.jpgHAYS, Kan. - In regard to federal assistance for state Medicaid funding, a recent survey found that voters oppose cutting funding to nursing homes so strongly that 62% of voters favored additional federal funding for Medicaid.

The new national survey from The Mellman Group found that Americans, by significant margins, strongly support passage of federal Medicaid relief. Voters support the use of federal funding to prevent additional cuts at the state level.

The new survey findings further punctuate the impact of Medicaid cuts enacted in state capitols across the nation on elderly and disabled constituents - and the threat of more to come as state governors face ongoing budget crises.

Results also show that voters vehemently oppose any additional state Medicaid cuts initiated by their state legislatures.

The results of that poll also found that voters, in addition to opposing cuts to funding in nursing home care, claim they will vote against elected officials who support additional cuts.

medicare_protest2.gifIn fact, candidates might like to take special note of these findings. Voters say they are more likely to vote against a state legislator who supports Medicaid cuts to nursing homes by a margin of 64% to 11%, with 45% indicating they are much more likely to oppose the candidate.

Pollster Mark Mellman presented the poll's findings on Medicaid issues at a Capitol Hill briefing yesterday. In his presentation, he described the extent to which voters oppose additional federal Medicare cuts, the implications to lawmakers in supporting additional funding cuts, and other issues related to funding U.S. seniors' long term care today, and in the years ahead.

The majority of Americans who require long term care and services - nearly 64 percent of nursing home patients, virtually all persons with developmental disabilities, and about 13 percent of assisted living residents - rely on Medicaid to pay for their care.

The largest payer of long term care and services, Medicaid represents a blend of both federal and state dollars paid at a rate set by each state - rates that often fail to cover the actual cost of providing this type of care.

Nursing homes and skilled nursing units are currently underfunded.

A separate and independent national study, conducted by ElJay, LLP, estimates that the national Medicaid shortfall for skilled nursing care in 2009 was $4.6 billion - or $14.17 per patient per day less than the actual cost of care.

In fact, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission's (MedPAC's) March 2007 Report to Congress noted, "The Government Accountability Office found that Medicaid's share of patients in a facility influenced the overall margin: The higher the share of Medicaid patient days in a facility, the lower its total margins."

senior-citizen-nursing-home.jpgEven with a temporary increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding, which was included in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and set to expire in December 2010, most state Medicaid budgets either froze or cut payments to providers, or limited benefits to cope with the economic downturn.

The underfunding of nursing homes and cutbacks in Medicaid at the state and federal levels directly affect senior citizens. Many seniors are being "disallowed" the care they need, and often the care they would have received in years past.

Increasingly, senior citizens in need of medical care are going without the services they require to sustain their lives.

In the absence of a federal statute requiring state Medicaid programs to reimburse for the cost of care, long term care providers continue to struggle with operating costs such as skilled labor and increased use of medical technologies that exceed reimbursements from Medicaid.

In releasing this new data, Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of AHCA warned, "It is urgent and abundantly clear that Congress must immediately pass the extension of emergency Medicaid relief. Adequate state Medicaid funding is directly linked with high quality care and local caregiver job stability. Every day Congress waits, seniors' care is placed in growing jeopardy, facility staffing stability is being compromised, and good, local health jobs are being put at risk. Seniors deserve help, governors are desperate for relief, and voters are demanding action."

Currently in the U.S. Senate, lawmakers are approaching a vote on Federal Medicaid Relief (FMAP).

Though voters in these polls clearly indicate that they strongly favor the bill's passage at the federal level, state lawmakers should take heed also.

Regardless of what does or does not happen in Washington, voters oppose any additional cuts to Medicaid funding for skilled nursing care or nursing homes.

"Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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