Nursing Home Industry Frightening Seniors Against Health Reform, Says Medicare Group

HealthLeaders Media Staff, September 28, 2009

An influential Medicare advocacy group has called out a large skilled nursing home corporation for going into its facilities and scaring elderly residents into thinking their healthcare benefits will be worse if health reform provisions in H.R. 3200 are voted into law.

"The nursing home industry is scaring residents, telling them that healthcare reform will lead to poorer quality of care and the loss of the staff who provide them with essential care each day," says the Center for Medicare Advocacy's senior policy attorney Toby S. Edelman. "This outrageous misinformation campaign must stop."

Her organization called on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to put an end to the campaign, as it has in an effort to stop alleged misinformation perpetuated by the Medicare Advantage industry.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Medicare Advocacy's director, Judith Stein, pointed specifically to efforts by Genesis HealthCare as an example of the orchestration of the misinformation campaign. Genesis owns more than 200 skilled nursing homes and assisted living communities serving 26,000 patients in 13 eastern states.

"Year after year, multiple reports by the Government Accountability Office and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission have shown that the Medicare program overpays skilled nursing facilities by billions of dollars. For seven years in a row, MedPAC reported that aggregate profit margins for freestanding nursing facilities exceeded 10%. In 2007, the profit margin was 14.5%.

"Worse yet, despite enormous overpayments, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services documents that nursing facilities have not increased their staffing.

"Where do these billions of dollars go? The overpayments go to profits to corporate nursing homes and to excessive executive compensation, not to the care and services needed by residents," Edelman says.

She emphasized that in H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, that the changes in the bill would "correct fraud and abuse in reimbursement, while recognizing that Medicare rates need to be increased for the small number of nursing home residents with special care needs, including those who use ventilators."

According to a report earlier this month in the The Day, of New London, Conn.,  a Genesis vice president, Laurence Lane, told a roomful of residents at Genesis' Groton Regency, that they should sign petitions and send letters to Congress opposing HR 3200.

He reportedly held up a thick black binder containing the 1,118-page bill and said it would cut $2 billion per year in federal payments for nursing home care to help pay for other provisions in the bill, or about $40 per day per nursing home, and would directly affect staffing levels and quality of care.

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