Nursing homes across the country are bracing for what appears to be a large wave of budget cuts as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services prepared to reduce skilled nursing facility Medicare payments by $3.87 billion nationwide starting Oct. 1, according to the American Health Care Association.
To sound the alarm, two national organizations have joined forces to launch the “Care Not Cuts” campaign to inform lawmakers that these cuts will directly affect the quality of care in skilled nursing facilities. The two organizations — the AHCA and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care — also aim to spread the message that the cuts will put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, specifically about 147,600 in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
During the campaign’s initial rollout, which extended through Sept. 5, TV ads that featured nurses who work in a nursing home near Washington, D.C., ran in Virginia and seven other states. The nurses explained these facilities already have absorbed deep budget cuts, and another round of cuts “simply goes too far.” The campaign is expected to continue for the next several months.
Washington, D.C., is slated to face 10.9%, or $2.3 million, in Medicare cuts. In Maryland, the reductions will be 11.5%, or $89 million, and in Virginia, the cuts will be 10.7%, or $88.1 million, according to the AHCA.
“I’ve been in this field for 15 years, and I have seen cuts in the past, but these are the largest cuts I’ve ever seen, and honestly, I am not sure how skilled nursing facilities are going to manage,” said Michelle Deckert, RN, director of nursing at Genesis HealthCare Layhill Center in Silver Spring, Md., and one of the nurses featured in the TV ad. “I believe it is important to get the message out to legislators that we cannot continue to deliver high-quality care in an industry that has more and more regulations with less and less money.”
Deckert believes legislators are not aware of the extensive needs of patients in long-term care, and she hopes the campaign will motivate lawmakers to visit facilities that will be affected by the cuts.
“The average patient that comes into my building has at least eight or 10 different disease processes going on at the same time, and many take 15 or 20 medications per day,” Deckert said. “Many of the people here are the older seniors, and the monumental cuts will jeopardize our ability to care for these patients.”
Ethel Ntamsen, RN, a nurse in the rehabilitation unit at Layhill who also was featured in the ad, is concerned the impending cuts will make it difficult to offer the holistic care this patient population needs.
“We have a lot of patients who are without family members, and they rely on us to listen to them and meet their psychological and social needs,” Ntamsen said. “We are dependent on public funding, and I hope legislators realize that many of us will eventually be in places like this someday. The decisions now are going to directly affect the quality of the care we will be able to provide.”
Heather Stringer is a freelance writer.
LEARN HOW to contact your lawmaker about this issue by visiting carenotcuts.org