Nursing homes can't take anymore budget cuts

Nursing homes can't take anymore budget cuts

Updated 12:04 a.m., Friday, September 30, 2011


Rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done is as Texan as it is American, and many of us realize in this time of economic turmoil that we all have to share the burden to get through what may become an even rockier time. Our frail elderly have been there and done that, as we say, and so with regard to their skilled nursing care, it is their time to rely on others and the funding resources earmarked to provide the best, compassionate care available.

As the administrator of The Heights on Huebner in San Antonio, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility, the satisfaction of providing first-rate rehabilitative and post-acute care services to seniors in need has been overshadowed by deep concern as long-term care has been subjected to a cascade of state and federal funding cuts threatening to cripple a sector that constantly faces financial volatility.

While skilled nursing care in Texas escaped a state Medicaid cut of 33 percent last legislative session, we still took a $56.9 million funding hit, which is no minor blow to long-term care in a state that ranks 49th in the country for Medicaid reimbursement per skilled nursing resident. As we were trying to hold off the larger Medicaid cut, we were and are attempting to absorb enormous Medicare cuts from federal health care reform and an administration action to the tune of $1.6 billion over the next 10 years.

Still reeling from those concurrent funding cuts, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services out of Washington recently announced an 11 percent Medicare funding reduction industry-wide that in Texas amounts to $234 million.

Right now on Capitol Hill, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, co-chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, is charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in savings by Nov. 23 as part of the deficit reduction effort. We simply cannot take anymore body blows and maintain fiscal stability, which is key to providing quality care.

The Heights on Huebner cares for 113 residents, many of whom receive high-quality rehabilitative care for pain, the healing of wounds and other ailments and return home. We also care for those with increasingly complex conditions that require 24/7 skilled nursing care after loved ones can no longer appropriately care for them at home.

A well-trained, robust workforce is essential to the mission of providing excellent care to our elderly. Seventy percent of our facility's budget is staff related, and we will be hard pressed to avoid staffing changes under a shrinking budget. For my staff, our elderly residents and their family members, we respectfully ask our lawmakers during this difficult time to first do no harm. Protect skilled nursing care for our elderly and reject any additional funding cuts.



Margaret Estes is the facility administrator for The Heights on Huebner in San Antonio.

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