Medicare cuts will have deep, lasting consequences
When it comes to Minnesotans' growing long-term care needs, cuts to Medicare-financed nursing home care such as those persistently being pursued by the Bush administration represent a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of our r...
When it comes to Minnesotans' growing long-term care needs, cuts to Medicare-financed nursing home care such as those persistently being pursued by the Bush administration represent a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of our retiree population.
If the administration'sregulatory-driven Medicare cuts go into effect this summer as planned, Minnesotans stand to lose more than $11.4 million in essential health benefits in the year ahead, according to a state impact study by the American Health Care Association.
This health funding is vital and not only strengthens facility staffing but helps improve care quality for the high acuity patients increasingly prevalent in facilities across Minnesota.
To U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's credit, he has resisted pressure from the Bush administration and has taken a major bipartisan leadership role in Congress to stop these cuts from going into effect. With Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Coleman recently issued a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, whose agency oversees Medicare regulations, urging a halt to the regulatory changes.
The joint letter warned that the senators are "deeply concerned that high-quality skilled nursing care for America's seniors will be threatened -- and reductions in spending of this magnitude would severely alter not only the quality of nursing home care, but also access to nursing home care for our nation's seniors."
The letter also referenced the American Health Care Association's finding that the cuts could cause Minnesota to lose $30.7 million in economic benefits and $13.5 million in wages.
Objectively, the looming Bush Medicare cuts represent a lose-lose proposition to Minnesota -- not just because seniors' care needs will be shortchanged but because the state economy will be damaged at a time we in Minnesota can least afford it.
Governors across the nation, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, are contending with more difficult state budget conditions associated with the national economic downturn. This has placed enormous pressure on state eldercare programs funded by Medicaid.
Furthermore, existing Medicare policy, as intended, is currently helping facilities throughout the state successfully serve higher acuity patients -- at a lower cost than other care settings. Current Medicare policy, according to an independent analysis by Avalere Health, saved Medicare $709 million in 2006 alone, nationally.
Considering the stark benefits, it is still more perplexing why the Bush administration is pressing forward with a policy initiative so detached from how this new Medicare regulation from Washington will negatively impact seniors in Minnesota.
In the final analysis, the administration's ill-considered change to Medicare policy would have unfortunate and unintended results for patients and for the Medicare program itself -- including diminished care for seniors and higher costs for taxpayers. Fortunately, Coleman recognizes on an independent and informed basis that the looming Medicare cuts are, plain and simple, bad policy that should not go into effect in the weeks ahead. Sen. Coleman deserves praise and recognition for putting Minnesota first.
Patti Cullen is president of Care Providers of Minnesota in Bloomington. Bruce Yarwood is president and CEO of the American Health Care Association in Washington, D.C.