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Deep Medicare Cuts Expected to Negatively Impact Hundreds of Illinois Nursing Homes

Nearly 800 Illinois nursing home and long-term care facilities are struggling with newly announced Medicare cuts that will result in a double-digit payment drop. As the Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Medicare plans to slash payment rates by as much as 11% starting in October 2011. This is a drastic, unexpected reduction that will result in roughly $4 billion in Medicare cuts to health-care providers that depend on this revenue to provide high-quality care.

Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers advocate on behalf of hundreds of thousands of nursing home residents, and know that nursing homes and other care facilities require an appropriate number of staff members in order to provide proper care. Expensive safety equipment and medications are also necessary, and can financially strain facilities that are strapped for funding. This is a critical time for many area nursing homes, already facing state Medicaid cuts and a fragile economy. Additional cuts are likely to have a dramatic impact.

Medicare attributes the planned payment reductions to a funding glitch, claiming that over $2 billion was mistakenly overpaid to nursing homes across the country under a new classification system. But this payment cut was much larger than expected and will wipe out a significant portion of earnings for many large skilled nursing home operators that rely heavily on reimbursements, including Kindred Healthcare, Sun Healthcare Group, and Skilled Health Care.

It is clear to our Chicago nursing home attorneys that fewer Medicare dollars means fewer opportunities to provide benefits, maintain staff, and deliver a high standard of care to nursing home residents. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities that depend on Medicare coverage may be forced to deny residents the care that they need. Without enough staff members on hand to properly supervise residents, nursing home neglect and abuse is a serious possibility. A majority of nursing home residents are elderly, frail, and require significant medical attention due to common health complications such as dementia or diabetes. The risk of falling or repeat strokes is also a major concern for many skilled nursing residents, and constant supervision may be necessary in order to prevent serious injury or fatalities. In some cases, facilities may be forced to close, leaving residents with nowhere else to go.

Illinois nursing home residents are particularly at risk, because many nursing homes rely on Medicare funding to help them stay in business and provide an appropriate level of care. Medicaid payments in Illinois are the lowest in the nation, amounting to about $118 a day, about $30 less than the actual cost of care. Many local care facilities depend on Medicare to make up the difference.

We understand that nursing home residents in our area and across the nation are expected to suffer greatly as a result of the Medicare cuts, but lack of funding is never an excuse of nursing home neglect. Nursing homes are legally required to deliver an adequate level of care, and they may be held accountable when they fail to do so and their actions result in injury or death.