Texas Health Care Association: $25.6 Million Medicaid Cuts Put Seniors' Care at Risk, Place Texas Jobs in Jeopardy - Graves Says Cumulative Medicaid/Medicare Funding Squeeze Jeopardizing Well Being of Texas' Oldest Citizens.
In testimony before the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) Council, the President of the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) warned that Texas leaders' intention to slice Medicaid-funded nursing home care and services by $25.6 million will place the care needs of the state's most vulnerable seniors at risk, and jeopardize the very front-line care jobs that help make the key difference in patient outcomes.
"The impact of continued Medicaid and Medicare funding cuts is a growing squeeze on Texas seniors' care benefits," warned THCA President Tim Graves. "This funding squeeze is also impacting providers' ability to recruit and retain quality caregivers. In addition to putting key front-line care jobs at risk, the worsening Medicare and Medicaid cost squeeze inhibits facilities' continued investment in cost effective care, and is directly at odds with our state and national health policy goals."
As part of national health care reform, Graves noted, the federal government just cut nearly $15 billion in seniors' Medicare-funded nursing home benefits - the vital funds needed to sustain high quality care and preserve key staff jobs in communities throughout Texas. "But now "even after deep new federal cuts "state leaders wrongly intend to cut Texas seniors' state Medicaid funding an extra $25.6 million. With Texas already one of the lowest states in seniors' Medicaid funding, lawmakers need to ask themselves how they can justify jeopardizing quality care, good local jobs, and the rehabilitative care that allows increasing numbers of their elderly constituents to return home."
Continued the THCA leader: "This is no time to weaken the health care system in Texas with budget cuts - and we need to go slowly, proceed with caution, and move forward in a deliberative, thoughtful manner. The next state budget stretches to August of 2013 - more than 36 months from now. Due to all of the uncertainties we face, we must be extremely careful about making premature decisions in regard to service cuts or policy changes."
The THCA President said facilities are taking on sicker and sicker patients, while Medicaid and Medicare funding are being simultaneously reduced. "Older and sicker residents require more intensive care, which means more resources are devoted to their care - both labor and non labor - and that means more money spent per resident over time. Put simply, our costs in treating these sicker patients are rising at the same time that our funding levels are falling dramatically. And if the current funding shortfalls continue, some of our patients may have to go back to hospitals for care."
Graves also pointed out the significant challenges faced by rural facilities as state and federal funding challenges loom large on their operational viability: "The challenges in rural areas are striking. While staffing issues are prevalent statewide, finding and recruiting qualified caregivers in small communities is even more difficult. In many cases, the town's nursing home is the largest local employer and a major part of the economy, but the towns themselves are shrinking and people are moving elsewhere." Since 2006, he noted, a little over one-third of Texas nursing facilities forced to close have been rural facilities.
Founded in 1950, the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) is the largest long term care association in Texas. THCA represents a broad spectrum of long term care providers and professionals offering long term, rehabilitative and specialized health care services. Member facilities, owned by both for-profit and non-profit entities, include nursing facilities, specialized rehabilitation facilities, and assisted living facilities. For more information, visit www.txhca.org.
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