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Letters to the editor – Sunday (8-14-2011)

Federal cuts threaten long-term care system
This is a letter I recently sent to Sen. Kay Hagan, Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Mel Watt:
Lutheran Services for the Aging serves over 1,200 North Carolinians every day, employs over 1,200 more North Carolinians and touches the lives of thousands more. As a provider of high quality long-term services and supports and a member of LeadingAge, I am most concerned about cuts to our field that may result from efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit.
My field already has taken billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid reductions. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare payments to nursing homes will be cut by over $14 billion over 10 years. The ACA also contains numerous provisions to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse and to make nursing home operations more transparent.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has just handed down a payment rule for fiscal 2012 that cuts Medicare payment rates to skilled nursing facilities by 11.1 percent across-the-board. The reduction in payments to nursing homes may total as much as 20 percent because the payment rule also corrects billing for therapy services.
Many states have made severe cutbacks in Medicaid payments to nursing homes over the last two years. Medicaid is the single largest source of operating revenue for nursing homes; we cannot absorb more reductions at the federal level.
The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS) was enacted to reduce reliance on Medicaid as a source of financing for long-term care. This program actually will help to reduce the deficit according to the Congressional Budget Office. Its implementation needs to continue moving forward.
I understand you and your colleagues must find ways to reduce the deficit. However, I respectfully ask you, on behalf of the people who live and work in my organization, not to direct any more cutbacks to the long-term services and supports sector.
We have absorbed as much as we can. Enough is enough.
— Ted Goins Jr.
Salisbury
Goins is president of Lutheran Services for the Aging and Lutheran Family Services. Readers seeking more information about the impact of federal budget cuts on senior citizen services can contact Goins via email at tgoins@LSANC.net.

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