June 27, 2008

State, National Long Term Care Community Applauds Georgia Leaders in U.S. Senate and U.S. House for Helping Lead Effort to Block $770 Million Bush Medicare Cuts

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga., June 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Georgia Health Care Association and the American Health Care Association (AHCA) today praised Senators Saxby Chambliss (R) and Johnny Isakson (R) and Representatives Sanford Bishop (D-2), John Barrow (D-12), and David Scott (D-13) for helping lead a bipartisan efforts in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to prevent the Bush Administration from moving forward with regulatory-driven cuts to seniors' Medicare Part A nursing home funding -- cuts that will result in Georgia seniors losing $15.4 million in the year ahead.

Specifically, Senators Chambliss and Isakson and Representatives Bishop, Barrow and Scott joined Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) and U.S. Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in a letter issued to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt. The letter expresses their "deep concern" that high-quality skilled nursing care for America's seniors will be threatened if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) moves forward with an administrative proposal -- in the coming weeks -- that would cut $770 million in Medicare funding for skilled nursing facility (SNF) care in 2009 and more than $4 billion over the next five years.

"It is highly significant that our state's leaders in Washington have joined the efforts in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House to speak out and oppose the Bush Administration's damaging Medicare funding reductions, and on behalf of Georgia's Medicare beneficiaries and the providers who care for them, we thank them for doing so," said Jon Howell, President of GHCA. "These policymakers have objectively evaluated how these cuts will hurt Georgia's Medicare beneficiaries, and are acting upon that determination to protect their elderly constituents."

Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association (AHCA), added, "Lawmakers of both parties, in both chambers, have stepped up to oppose the Bush Administration on this important health policy matter because it makes little sense to first hurt seniors' care, and then do so in a manner wasteful of tax dollars. This is bad, ill-considered policy from the Bush Administration, and the facts simply do not support proceeding with these Medicare funding cuts."

The state and national long term care leaders noted that existing Medicare policy was designed to encourage the movement of certain high-acuity Medicare beneficiaries to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). As a result, the site of care for a significant number of high acuity patients appropriately shifted to SNFs, and a recent independent analysis shows that this shift saved Medicare an estimated $709 million." (Source: Avalere Health, LLC)

The letter to HHS Sec. Leavitt joined by Sens. Chambliss and Isakson and Reps. Bishop, Barrow and Scott warns the planned Medicare changes "will jeopardize the significant quality improvements made by the SNF community in recent years as well as the ability of SNFs to continue caring for high acuity patients. Because SNFs rely on Medicare to make up for chronic underfunding by the Medicaid program -- an average of $13 per day for every Medicaid beneficiary in nursing homes nationwide -- it is critically important that Medicare reimbursement remain fair and consistent. We believe that if CMS were to finalize its proposed rule, the ability of providers to care for our nation's most vulnerable population -- the frail elderly and disabled -- would be severely threatened."

The complete text of the letter to HHS Sec. Leavitt and list of co-signers available at http://www.ahca.org/

The Georgia Health Care Association (GHCA) is an association of nursing homes representing the best interests of residents as well as owners, administrators and other personnel. GHCA strives to enhance the ability of our member facilities to provide competent and compassionate care to meet the ever changing health care needs of Georgia elderly and disabled citizens.

Georgia Health Care Association

CONTACT: Leigh Ann Bradley, +1-703-548-0019, for Georgia Health CareAssociation

Web Site: http://www.acha.org/