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Nursing Homes Nationwide Hit by Major Medicare Cuts

Florida seniors’ Medicare-funded nursing home care will face new $60.5 million payment reductions, according to a recent news report. These cuts are part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012m which was passed earlier this year.

The nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) that are facing the biggest Medicare cuts include: Florida $60.5 million; Ohio $30.5 million; Illinois $28.8 million; Pennsylvania $24.2 million and North Carolina $22.6 million.

In August 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reduced Medicare nursing facility payment rates by 11.1 percent. Congress slashed the reimbursement for Medicare co-payments not made by beneficiaries or Medicaid programs in the various states.

As Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers, we are deeply concerned about the impact that these new Medicare cuts will have on the country’s already troubled nursing homes. The Alliance for the Quality of Nursing Home Care points out that such payment cuts will lead to layoffs in nursing homes and cancel projects that will create new jobs.

A recent survey revealed that up to one-third of nursing facilities planned to give the pink slip to registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, and therapists. This appears to be unavoidable, as labor expenses make up about 70 percent of the facilities’ costs. The report also revealed that over 70 percent of the nursing facilities planned to change wage rates, about 50 percent planned to change benefits, and about 23 percent said they plan to delay or cancel opening new facilities.

The lack of skilled nursing caused by such lay-offs will affect the quality of nursing care for Medicare post-acute care patients and Medicaid-funded long-stay residents. This, in turn, will result in unnecessary re-admissions and drive up Medicare costs.

In response to Medicaid cuts in the past, skilled nursing facilities reduced nursing hours per resident. This led to an increase in the number of adverse medical events each year, such as falls, sores and infections. The cuts have also reduced the number of nursing facilities by endangering their financial stability.

Medicare payment reductions may also inadvertently widen the gap in quality of care across nursing facilities, or even between Medicare and private patients within the same facility. Unfortunately, nursing home neglect and abuse are serious issues that older Americans face in nursing facilities. With the reduction in the number of nursing staff due to Medicare cuts, these problems are bound to increase.

Seniors discharged from hospitals and looking for rehabilitative care may find it difficult to find nursing facilities that will accept them. This is because the reduced Medicare cuts may discourage nursing homes from taking in expensive cases for which they could lose reimbursement.

It may be several years before the full effects of a Medicare cut are fully realized. Policymakers should first consider how Medicare and Medicaid payment reductions will affect the extent and quality of nursing care. They must also consider how payment reductions will affect the financial position of nursing facilities.

The problems facing Medicare and Medicaid reliant nursing home residents are significant. Families with relatives in nursing homes may be faced with incidents of neglect or abuse due to lack of staff or underpaid employees. it is important to watch out for warning signs of nursing home negligence and abuse, such as bruises, dehydration, and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases. A nursing home abuse lawyer can help protect your legal rights.