Ohio is 'Ground Zero' Nationally For Deep Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Job Losses Caused by New Medicare Regulation; Ohio Lawm

At Least 2,900 Ohio SNF Jobs Lost Due to Shock of New 11.1 Percent Medicare Funding Reduction Combined With 5.8 Percent State Medicaid Cuts; Loss of Direct Care Workers Causing Growing Concerns About Patient Care

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On a conference call with Ohio media this morning, national and state eldercare leaders said growing job losses and the subsequent threat to seniors' care in Ohio's skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) is the result of a new federal Medicare regulation combined with 5.8 percent state Medicaid cuts. Ohio, they said, is now "Ground Zero" nationally in terms of reported job losses, and urged the Ohio congressional delegation to help alleviate the worsening problem by phasing in the Medicare regulation over a three-year period prior to adjournment later this month.

The federal regulation, which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) put into effect on October 1st, reduced Ohio seniors' Medicare-financed SNF care by $275.1 million for FY 2012 – the sixth highest reduction nationally, and which has occurred relatively parallel to 5.8 percent state Medicaid cuts.

According to an Ohio Health Care Association (OHCA) member survey conducted jointly with the Academy of Senior Health Sciences, reported last week, at least 2,800 jobs have been lost in 333 nursing homes throughout Ohio due to the growing Medicaid and Medicare funding squeeze. Eighty percent of the losses are critical direct care staff responsible for approximately 70-80 percent of direct patient care. An Avalere Health survey of U.S. SNFs conducted for the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, released earlier this month, found that in response to the Medicare regulation, facilities plan to lay off approximately 20,000 workers nationally and cancel approximately 400 facility expansions or renovations that could have created at least 20,000 new jobs.

"Unfortunately, Ohio has become 'Ground Zero' on a national basis in terms of reported SNF job losses resulting from the federal Medicare regulation and state Medicaid cuts," stated Alan G. Rosenbloom, President of the Alliance, a coalition of 12 leading post-acute and long term care organizations providing SNF care in approximately 1,400 facilities in 44 states nationwide, including Ohio. "The combined funding reductions are taking too much out of the SNF funding system too fast, and we fear the job loss numbers in Ohio are going to get worse to the detriment of Ohio seniors and Ohio workers."

Peter Van Runkle, Executive Director of OHCA, stated, "This is a bad situation that is getting worse – and elderly facility patients and caregivers are at severe risk. In the past week, we have learned still more about what is occurring in other Ohio facilities, and we are raising our job losses to 2,900 – and this is a very conservative, low-end number. With Congress still eyeing additional Medicare cuts in the remaining days of December to help fund other programs, Ohio seniors and those who provide their care need help now."

Rosenbloom and Van Runkle said a gradual phase-in of the federal regulation – which has been done in the past for other provider sectors – can help alleviate the dislocation and disruption causing many facilities to warn of still more job losses and threats to quality improvement programs now benefitting seniors. Stated Rosenbloom: "We respectfully urge the Ohio congressional delegation to pursue this logical, fair and responsible policy recourse in the closing days of the 2011 legislative session. It is a vital year-end necessity that will help lawmakers' most vulnerable, elderly constituents."

The Alliance and OHCA leaders pointed out that more than 70 percent of all patients in nursing facilities nationwide rely on Medicare and Medicaid funding for care, and said the prospect of yet more Medicare cuts resulting from deliberations related to Sustained Growth Rate (SGR) deliberations would be "devastating to patients, and disastrous to facilities, local economies and caregiver jobs." The nation's SNF sector, America's second largest health facility employer, is already slated to absorb a staggering $127 billion in Medicare funding cuts and reductions in the FY 2012-21 budget window due to legislative and regulatory changes over the past five years.

SOURCE Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care

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