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Government Cuts Affect Nursing Homes

One of my WealthCounsel colleagues posted a comment on the potential for concern about nursing home care levels. Lizette Sundvick targets this concern that appeared in this article: "Medicare Cuts Could Up Nursing Home Costs" SmartMoney.

Nursing home residents may soon face higher costs and reduced services, as planned Medicare spending cuts take effect this fall.

The last few months have been a wild ride on multiple levels, to include concerns over Medicare and the "debt crisis." While many more challenges lie ahead in terms of budget cuts, some cuts already have been made under the radar screen. Several you should know about actually go into effect this fall, as reported in a recent SmartMoney article.

According to SmartMoney, nursing home residents could face higher costs or reduced care once these cuts kick in.

Background

On July 29, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decided and announced that they would be compensating for last year's $4 billion shortfall by cutting reimbursement rates to nursing homes by 11.1%. In real terms, the shortfall is going to reduce government reimbursements to nursing homes. In 2010, nursing homes increased charges on residents by an average of 5%. Bad news: These reduced government reimbursements likely will trigger even higher nursing home costs for residents beginning this fall. Alternatively, it might trigger a reduction in services to nursing home residents. Either way, the forecast is not pleasant.

Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps nursing home residents won't see increases in costs or decreases in services. After all, the CMS actually justifies the 11.1% cut by pointing out that it is simply a more accurate reimbursement amount based on a government report indicating that Medicare has been overpaying. In fact, a spokesperson for the CMS maintains, "We do not believe that nursing homes will respond to the payment changes by decreasing the quality of care furnished to patients. However, we intend to carefully monitor changes in utilization and staffing patterns to ensure that patients continue to receive high quality care."

Still, the nursing home industry appears to be monitoring the situation with caution. Bottom line: If you have a loved one in a nursing home, then you, too, should take notice. Keeping abreast of current economic changes keeps you prepared for changes you may need to make on behalf of your loved one.

The potential for drastic changes in long term care environment serve as reminders that our power of attorney and healthcare directives need to be up-to-date and relevant. If you want assurance that your plans are up-to-date, then let's get a meeting scheduled to review your plans.

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