Lawmakers: Extend Medicaid Subsidies To Help African-American Seniors

Three black members of Congress on Tuesday said minority nursing home patients would be disproportionately affected if Congress fails to extend bonus payments to state Medicaid programs.

Low Medicaid payment rates to nursing homes have been blamed for causing low staffing rates and quality-of-care problems for years. The lawmakers fear that without the extra payments, states will trim their budgets, exacerbating problems at nursing homes that rely heavily on Medicaid.

Reps. Ed Towns, D-N.Y., Gwen Moore, D-Wisc. and Danny Davis, D-Ill., cited a new report by consulting firm Avalere Health, which noted that 40 percent of black nursing home patients lived in “lower-tier” nursing homes compare to 9 percent of whites. Lower-tier nursing homes are those that have predominantly Medicaid patients.

The federal government has been paying states a higher federal share of Medicaid as part of the stimulus package passed by Congress in 2009. The extra money is set to expire at the end of 2010. But most states are relying on the extra funds through the end of their budget year, June 30, 2011.

Debt-conscious lawmakers have been reluctant to extend the program because of its $24 billion price tag, but supporters are pushing for a vote before the August congressional recess.

“This is extremely important for African American seniors,” Moore said. “Rates are already too low to those nursing homes that provide care to our seniors..and when we have cuts it will means cuts to quality of services.”

“We have to do all we can to stop reinforcing these disparities,” she said.

The Avalere report said seven states this year have announced cuts in Medicaid nursing home fees ranging from 1 percent to 10 percent. Ten other are considering cuts.

The Avalere report was done at the request of The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, a coalition that includes some of the nation’s largest nursing home chains.

Related KHN story:

Governors To Congress: Extend Extra Medicaid Funds
 (Gold, 6/30)

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