Last Thursday, a group of elected officials gathered with 1199SEIU and the Healthcare Education Project to oppose what they say believe is a massive $250 million cut in Medicaid reimbursements to 600 certified nursing facilities across the state.
Advocates assert that the cuts, set to take effect on November 6, will impact service for senior citizens.
“I feel that it’s an injustice to our elderly who have contributed so much to society,” said Marcelle Dinnall from the Healthcare Education Project, the lobbying arm of 1199SEIU and the Greater New York Hospital Association. “They’re now in a vulnerable state in their life, and we should take care of them.”
Michael Teller, the administrator at the Hillside Manor Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center, where the rally took place, said it’s their obligation to make sure families and residents can rely on the facility.
“When we look at the reimbursements that we get from the state and federal governments, we rely on those significantly for our operating budgets,” Teller said, “to make sure we can provide proper staffing, supplies and equipment, education and making sure residents get what they need and deserve.”
Assemblyman David Weprin called the $250 million cut “devastating” to the nursing home industry, noting that 75 percent of residents in nursing homes are covered by Medicaid programs.
“I call on Commissioner Zucker to reopen the task force and deal with these unfair cuts,” he said.
In a July 17th letter to state Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, Weprin wrote that the cuts in administrative reimbursements would “result in closures.”
“With an already serious worker shortage in the home care industry in New York City and across the state, licensed home care agencies will be unable to fill the gap in services that ensue,” he wrote.
State Senator Leroy Comrie alleged that the state task force that was convened on the issue moved forward with the new methodology without receiving the proper analysis and input.
“How can you put together these cuts without having the dialogue necessary, the feedback necessary, from the people who would be most impacted?” he said.
“We understand there’s a need to make sure there are savings,” Comrie added. “But there’s a bigger need to have dialogue so things can be understood. This is not the way the state should handle this.”
Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman said nurses will have to do “more with less” when facility budgets are slashed.
“You’re asking for trouble, for people to take shortcuts,” she said.
Michael Balboni, director of the Greater New York Healthcare Facilities Association, added that health care provider networks never received the numbers prior to the decision. They have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health.
“I’m convinced there will be homes that will close,” he said. “It’s unsustainable and it’s not where we should be going in health care.”
DOH spokesperson Erin Hammond said in a statement that the Fiscal Year 2020 state budget included a change in the calculation used to reimburse nursing homes statewide “in order to ensure that nursing homes are paid accurately and fairly based on the care needs” of 80,000 New Yorkers.
“The department does not expect this change to result in any disruption to nursing home residents and the care they receive,” Hammond said, “and is reviewing the court case.”