HARRISBURG (Feb. 20, 2008) – A new coalition, “Pennsylvanians for Quality Care,” today launched a statewide campaign against the Rendell administration’s proposed 2008-09 state budget, which includes no increase in Medical Assitance rates for the care of Pennsylvania’s most ill and elderly residents in nursing homes.
Ron Barth, president and CEO of PANPHA, said cuts translate into tax increases for some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable families.
“The dirty little secret is this Administration expects nursing home residents and their families who pay for their own care to pay extra – a hidden tax if you will – to make up the shortfall of the Medicaid rate,” Barth said. “Or they expect the hard working staff of nursing homes and personal care facilities to be paid less than other health care providers or to get fewer benefits.”
In the coming weeks, coalition members will be discussing Rendell’s failure to adequately fund nursing home costs at venues across the state. Event, news and the latest information is available at: www.PaForQualityCare.org.
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The coalition is comprised of PANPHA, an association of nonprofit senior services; the PA Association of County Nursing Homes (PACAH); the PA Health Care Association (PHCA); care administrators; employees; residents and family members. Pennsylvanians for Quality Care kicked off its statewide information campaign during a press conference in the state capitol rotunda.
Two out of three nursing home residents are on Medical Assistance. Over the past three budget cycles, the Rendell administration and the Legislature have under-reimbursed nursing homes nearly $290 million for the care of the commonwealth’s most ill and elderly residents. As a result, many nursing homes are struggling to meet the medical, physical and social needs of residents. In some places in Pennsylvania, low-income elderly have to wait for nursing home beds and self-paying nursing home residents have to pay more for their care, because of chronic government underfunding.
Sheila Crossan, who works as a caregiver at The 58th Street Presbyterian Home in Philadelphia, spoke on behalf of several residents that she and her team care for every day.
“We offer quality health care at a time when friends and family are no longer able to do so,” Crossan said. “But, we can’t continue to do it alone. The under-funding of Medicaid for residents at 58th Street Presbyterian Home will wreak havoc on their lives. I urge our leaders to make fair funding for nursing home residents a budgetary priority. We can’t afford not to.”
Coalition members, such as Sister Judith Maroni of Villa St. Joseph, Beaver County, emphasized they support all care options for seniors, but believe nursing home funding is being unfairly targeted for cuts.
“We support the creation of additional options to serve older adults outside of the nursing homes when their care needs allow it,” Sister Maroni said. “However, as citizens of Pennsylvania, we cannot support having nursing home care penalized with a flat line budget in order to fund other facets of care delivery. It does not make sense. Pennsylvania citizens cannot be segmented out like this and treated differently because of the system of care that they happen to be in.”
Michael J. Wilt, executive director of PACAH, said, "It is unfortunate that there is no proposed cost of living increase in the long-term care line item for nursing home funding next year. A zero increase is in reality a decrease in available funding for our facilities, all of whom have mandatory fixed costs that continue to escalate.”
Ray Calhoun, who is one of the owners of Guardian Elder Care, which oversees 17 nursing homes throughout central, western and northeastern Pennsylvania, said the Rendell budget will make it more difficult to attract and retain healthcare workers.
“These positions involve high physical and emotional stress,” Calhoun said. “And, because there is intense competition among all health-care providers to hire qualified staff in the face of a national nursing shortage, our employees can find higher compensation in competing health-care settings,” Calhoun said. “When the state or federal governments refuse to pay their share of Medical Assistance, it isn’t a savings that comes without cost. It comes at the expense of sicker, older Pennsylvanians who rely every day on nursing homes to provide them with compassionate, high quality care.
Said Anne Wantz, Chief Operating Officer at the PA Health Care Association, “All of us understand that difficult choices need to be made each budget year. But nursing home residents have paid their price over the last three years. They shouldn’t be asked to pay more, which is exactly what the Governor’s budget proposes.”