Kennebunk, Maine-area nursing home caregivers, residents, and family members recently gathered with representatives of a national coalition of nursing home clinicians at Kennebunk Nursing & Rehabilitation Center to sign a petition to members of Maine’s Congressional delegation asking for their support in ensuring that Medicare funding for nursing home care remains sufficient for delivering quality care for seniors and protecting local caregiver jobs, says a statement from the Coalition to Protect Senior Care (CPSC). The group also thanked Sen Olympia Snowe (D-Me) for voicing her concern about the unique challenges facing nursing homes as the health care reform debate continues in Washington.

"We fully support what Congress is striving to achieve with health care reform. However, we believe that proposals in place to cut Medicare funding for seniors in nursing homes would place an unfair burden on our nation’s most vulnerable seniors who depend upon this important care," said Lisa Cantrell, president of the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA) and a founding member of CPSC, in a statement released by the CPSC.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) are part of the CPSC.

Under current House of Representatives health care reform legislation—now in the process of being modified—Medicare funding for seniors in nursing homes would be cut by more than $32 billion over 10 years, equating to a loss of nearly $252.3 million in funding for Maine seniors receiving nursing home care, according to a recent analysis conducted by the American Health Care Association (AHCA), said the statement. These funding reductions come at a time when seniors’ nursing home care funding has been deeply cut by Medicare in recent months and historically underfunded by Medicaid, thereby threatening overall quality of care and important caregiver positions, according to representatives of the CPSC, which cohosted the event.

Cantrell said that moving forward, the Coalition will continue to impress upon lawmakers that because three of every four of our nursing home patients’ care is funded by Medicare and Medicaid combined—and because facilities devote a full 70% of operating expenses to wages, benefits, and other labor costs—adequate Medicare funding levels for nursing home care as part of health reform is integral to staffing stability and quality care in Maine facilities, as it is nationwide. "Senator Snowe has been a consistent champion for the long-term care community, and we urge her to keep fighting for stable Medicare funding for seniors in nursing homes as the health care reform debate moves forward," she said.

"I’m deeply concerned about what these proposed Medicare cuts will mean to our residents, and how facilities’ having to cut staff positions and programs will impact residents’ quality of care," said Laurie McFarren, executive director for Kennebunk Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. "I hope that by calling attention to our members of Congress on this need for stable funding, they will help us ensure that Maine’s seniors will be able to receive the same levels of care they rely on, and that caregivers at Kennebunk and other facilities across the state can continue to provide them with this care each day."

The Coalition to Protect Senior Care (CPSC) is a national coalition of health care assistants, long term care nurses, certified nursing assistants and others who deliver round-the-clock, front-line care to seniors.

[Source: Coalition to Protect Senior Care]