Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Squeezing Medicare = Squeezing Access

By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
In yesterday's USA Today, reporter Richard Wolf offered five possible areas the federal government could look to in order to “squeeze Medicare” and address the rising costs of the program. But as Wolf points out, Medicare continues to be considered “one of the most popular programs ever devised by the federal government,” and faces a tough battle in undergoing substantive changes through Congress.

Wolf’s five ways to reduce the costs of Medicare included:
  1. Target ‘rich’ people – Raising premiums or limiting benefits on the wealthy
  2. Give beneficiaries skin in the game – Make all Medicare beneficiaries pay more
  3. Raise the eligibility age – Possibly to age 67
  4. Reduce providers’ profit margins – reducing payments to doctors, hospitals, drugmakers and insurers
  5. Root out waste and inefficiency – to avoid further cuts, the debate could turn to waste, fraud and abuse
But some of these options are difficult to achieve politically, as most Americans don’t want to see the program cut at all.

Wolf cites how Medicare has already been handed reductions only one year ago through health care reform’s charge to find $500 billion in savings. Skilled nursing facilities were cut $14.6 billion, as part of those savings. And just this past week, federal regulations went into effect that reduced Medicare payments to SNFs by 11%, or close to $4 billion. Meanwhile, falling state revenues have caused many drastic cuts to Medicaid, further straining long term and post-acute care facilities.

As Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health states in Wolf’s article, "There's not much left in the well. There's nothing that is politically acceptable or pain-free."

While the supercommittee continues to examine ways to reduce the federal deficit, lawmakers must realize that additional cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that target the long term and post-acute care profession threaten access to care to the millions of Americans. Skilled nursing facilities have already faced multiple reductions through Medicare, and it’s time to find savings elsewhere.

AHCA is ready to help find those savings. Stay tuned this week for details on the organization’s new plan that will help reduce costs while still maintaining quality care for our nation’s Greatest Generation and beyond.

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