Strong lobbying efforts by advocates for senior citizens in and outside New Jersey’s Jewish community have helped win a restoration of $26 million in Medicaid reimbursements for the state’s nursing homes.
Those funds — contained in the 2013 state budget signed by Gov. Chris Christie — will be matched dollar for dollar by federal funds, providing a total of $52 million in Medicaid monies.
The figures come close to the $30 million in reimbursements sought by the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations and affiliated groups, which would have translated into $60 million after the federal match.
The State Association and other groups had requested the restoration after the Christie administration imposed a 3.3 percent cut in nursing home allocations last year.
A lobbyist for the State Association called the restoration “a pretty big success.”
“Getting $26 million out of the $30 million we sought is actually pretty good,” said Lori Price Abrams, vice president of government relations at the MWW Group in Trenton, who worked closely with Jacob Toporek, executive director of the State Association.
“We have to see this as a victory. This came after an appeal to both parties and there was some coming together by both parties.”
Jewish nonprofit nursing homes serving a nonsectarian clientele rely on Medicaid reimbursements.
“The moment we learned that the Fiscal Year 2013 budget was cutting reimbursement to the nursing homes, and it was estimated that $900,000 would be lost to the Daughters of Israel home in West Orange, we went right into action,” said Melanie Roth Gorelick, director of the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest. “We studied the issues, contacted our legislators, met with them during Super Sunday last December, then began a letter-writing/advocacy campaign.”
Susan Grosser, executive director of Daughters of Israel, said that announcement of the restoration was “good news — but not great news. When the drastic cuts were announced, it was almost a $12 a day loss for us per patient.”
Now, even with the restoration, the cuts will result in the home’s losing almost $4 a day per client, or about $300,000 annually.
Grosser said she had no plans to ease the austerity budget Daughters had put in place to cope with the anticipated $900,000 in cuts.
“We made reductions that would not affect patient care,” she said, by freezing salaries and contributions to the employees’ pension plan. “We will still not break even. To have any dollars taken away from our budget is very painful for our industry.”
But, Grosser added, “it was such tremendous work by the State Association and the CRC. I don’t think any of this would have happened without them. They worked so diligently on this.”
Restoring the cuts became what Gorelick called a “priority issue” at a CRC legislative breakfast with 18 state lawmakers on June 1 at the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC in West Orange. “The Republicans said to us, ‘We need personal stories. We need to know how this will impact individuals.’ So we reached out to all the Jewish nursing homes and asked them to compile letters on how the cuts were hurting residents, and those letters were forwarded on to the legislators.”
CRC chair Gordon Haas said, “We let the legislators know how this particular cut hurt members of our community and that they cannot balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. We believe we were heard.”
Toporek said nursing homes could expect additional funds from another source.
“State Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd acknowledged at budget hearings that there was some $11 million in extra monies available from the underutilization of nursing home beds,” he said.