NURSING HOMES: Bill Would ‘Bail Out’ Struggling Homes
A bipartisan group of senators Thursday introduced legislation that would assist the beleaguered nursing home industry, to the tune of as much as $1 billion, the Albuquerque Journal reports. The bill would increase Medicare payments for nursing home stays, increase inflation adjustments for at least three years and adjust rates for high-acuity nursing home residents. The bill's severity-adjustment provision would "expire no later than Oct. 1, 2001," when HCFA is expected to change rates. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) said, "I have come to the realization that there is a problem with the ability of our nursing homes to provide the necessary quality and quantity of care our seniors not only require, but deserve." Senate Special Committee on Aging Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and the General Accounting Office, have both expressed caution in "rushing to bail out the nursing-home industry" and "questioned whether some companies have made poorly timed decisions to expand and take on more debt." The Albuquerque Journal reports that large not-for-profit nursing home chains are laying off thousands of workers and have hemorrhaged more than $1 billion in the past year, however "there is no widespread evidence that beneficiaries are having a tougher time getting into nursing homes or that care has deteriorated." But American Health Care Association Vice President Linda Keegan said, "These senators are literally throwing a lifesaver to Medicare beneficiaries who need nursing home care." On behalf of his home state, Domenici added, "Because New Mexico is extremely rural, there may only be a single provider available for miles around. If that facility closes, patients will be forced into homes farther away from loved ones" (Cole, 8/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.