Budget leaves seniors vulnerable

Budget leaves seniors vulnerable

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By W. Russell McDaid

Our elected officials are tasked with crafting a fair and responsible budget amid difficult circumstances and we are pleased they provided some much-needed assistance to Pennsylvania’s skilled nursing facilities through the access add-on payments for high Medicaid facilities this year.

However, we caution that Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program still does not come close to covering the real cost of care. Nursing facilities received flat funding in this year’s budget, which leaves Pennsylvania’s frailest and sickest residents, such as those with advanced dementia or severe chronic health conditions that require around-the-clock care in skilled nursing facilities, vulnerable.

The funding shortfall in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program is the single biggest challenge facing Pennsylvania’s nursing homes and long-term care providers as the commonwealth works to ensure high-quality, person-centered care for a rapidly aging population.

For a decade, facilities have been asked to do more with less. Skilled nursing facilities still cannot invest in necessary capital improvements or advanced technology that would enhance care, nor can they pay competitive wages that would increase staff retention, which is so vital to high-quality care.

Without adequate funding moving forward, some facilities may have to turn away seniors on Medicaid because they cannot afford their care, creating access to care issues in parts of the state.

In addition to adequate funding for skilled nursing facilities, PHCA has strongly advocated for meaningful tort reform legislation, which would help ease the burden that predatory out-of-state law firms place on our sector’s facilities, staff and residents. Senate Bill 747, which would cap punitive damages at 250% of the amount of compensatory damages for long-term care providers, received bipartisan support in the Senate and now awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.

It is critical that Senate Bill 747 be brought up for a vote in the House when the chamber returns in September. When passed, this important piece of legislation will take our scarce Medicaid dollars back from predatory out-of-state lawyers and keep them here in Pennsylvania paying for quality care where they belong.

Senate Bill 747 is essential to the long-term viability of Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living residences and needs to be passed in the House and earn the Governor’s support to become law this fall.

We plan to continue working with the Wolf Administration and the General Assembly to make the needs of seniors a priority by ensuring our sickest, frailest Pennsylvania residents have access to the services they need to live a healthy, safe, high-quality life with the dignity and respect they deserve.

  1. Russell McDaid is President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association.