Let’s Hope Congressional Panel Doesn’t Disrupt Quality Care for Our Seniors

The United States Congress Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing entitled “Examining Federal Efforts to Ensure Quality of Care and Resident Safety in Nursing Homes” on Thursday, September 6th.  The plan is to examine reports of substandard care occurring at skilled nursing facilities participating in the Medicare and Medicaid program.  Also, the subcommittee will explore the role of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services relating to the management and safety of these facilities.

American Senior Alliance has had the pleasure of touring many nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the Southeast over the last 2 years.  I've been amazed at the extraordinary care our seniors are receiving. Our goal is to ensure our seniors continue receiving quality affordable care at all skilled nursing facilities.  On just about every occasion, we've witnessed quality care being administered while weaving in fun filled festive events. On most every unannounced visit, we've witnessed staff delivering results way beyond the call of duty. When residents and staff are smiling, you have a pretty good feeling that they are being well taken care of.

As committee members convene this week to discuss quality care and resident safety, let's keep in mind there are over 15,600 skilled nursing facilities across America that care for approximately 1.5 million residents.  Our experience and research show most of our vulnerable Americans who are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are receiving the quality care that we expect. Whatever the direction the committee takes on Thursday, let's not disrupt the wonderful care many of our seniors receive.  Our elders can't afford any radical changes that could increase the cost of care and potentially reduce services.  If you take a moment and survey the states across the country, almost 50% of our skilled nursing facilities are rated 4 or 5 stars by CMS.  Just in Florida alone, 78% of the facilities are rated 4 or 5 stars.

We would like to see our providers continue their quality work for many years to come.  The CMS Operations Manual that providers operate under is about the size of a 50 pound bag of Idaho potatoes, so there is certainly no shortage of tedious guidelines.  If a facility is in violation of a code section, we trust the regulators will do their job and deal with the provider who steps out of bounds.  To the thousands of providers providing affordable quality care for our senior citizens, we salute you and hope you will continue your excellent work on behalf of our older Americans.

As we head into Thursday's hearing, we hope the committee will understand that most nursing center residents require 24 hour complex care.  Many of the residents have cognitive impairments like Alzheimer's and Dementia.  It has been just over two years ago that my dad passed away from health complications and dementia.  I was blessed to serve as one of his caregivers, three days every week for 24 months.  It was the most rewarding experience of my life and I am forever grateful for that special time with my dad.  I learned firsthand how important all nurses and caregivers are to our older Americans.  My time as a caregiver was extremely tough and was sometimes a thankless job, but I wouldn't trade the challenging moments for anything in the world.

One statistic we hope the Energy and Commerce committee will consider is additional funding for staff and operations.  Over 65% of nursing  home residents rely on Medicaid to pay for their services and due to budget cuts, our skilled nursing centers continue to find creative ways to do more with less.  In all fairness, Congress should find a way to fully fund our nursing homes, so they can have the staff that they truly need.  Our providers struggle with excessive operating costs to cover labor, physical plant upgrades and increased use of technology that significantly exceeds Medicaid reimbursements. 

We would like to see Congress fully fund our nursing facilities, so they can continue the tremendous progress they've made toward quality advancements.  We believe our seniors deserve it.





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