Source: The Record

This Summer, New Jersey officials voted to move to a reimbursement system that would allow homes that care for the patients with greater medical needs to be paid at a higher daily Medicaid reimbursement rate.  However the negative impact upon revenues for homes which care for healthy patients prompted a slow adoption process.  During the course of this wrangling, Governor Christie’s budget for the state called for some $75 million in Medicaid spending reductions.  The Christie plan was for a 3% cut across homes but was applied disporportionally.

The result? One nursing home in Wyckoff, which three years ago opened a 68-bed, post-acute care unit to accommodate sicker patients, saw its daily per-Medicaid-patient reimbursement rate drop from $198 to $187, although the new rate system had previously promised to raise that figure to $225.  The state notified nursing homes of the revised Medicaid rates in early October, more than three months into the current fiscal year, meaning some facilities would have to pay back a portion of reimbursements already received.

Since then, nursing home advocates have been lobbying the Christie administration and lawmakers for some relief from cuts they say could in time force them to cut staff or services.  Advocates say county-operated nursing homes also could be among the most hurt by the rate changes as they tend to serve patients who are predominantly on Medicaid.  State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, outgoing chairwoman of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee, said she is discussing potential solutions with other legislative leaders but doubts anything could be done in the current fiscal year to roll back cuts, as some nursing home operators are hoping.

“I think these cuts are harmful, and they are harmful to the most vulnerable of populations,” Weinberg said. “We need to hear from the people who are affected. We need their voices on this.”

 “There is a lot of uncertainty,” said Larry Lane, vice president for government relations at Nursing Home Giant -Genesis Health Care, a national chain that operates 30 nursing homes and three assisted living centers in New Jersey alone, which together will lose between $6 and $7 million in Medicaid cuts.  On the labor side, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, which represents 7,000 long-term care workers in New Jersey, is already concerned that some homes are not staffed adequately, nor trained well enough, to care for these sicker patients, said Milly Silva, executive vice president.  “No one wants to see a tragedy where somebody ends up injured because of a lack of staff,” Silva said.  No indeed.

Posted by: Gayle R. Lewis, Esquire