Nursing homes call Medicaid cuts ‘devastating’

Nursing homes call Medicaid cuts ‘devastating’

Jewish activists lobby to restore funding via appropriations

Jewish community activists are scrambling to restore state Medicaid cuts that could have what they call a “devastating effect” on nursing home care.

The seven Jewish nursing homes in New Jersey stand to lose nearly $3.2 million in Medicaid reimbursements for fiscal year 2012-13.

“Collectively they care for the most frail and vulnerable older adults,” said a statement issued last week by the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations.

“Such a reduction in funding will seriously jeopardize the fiscal well-being of each of these institutions and undermine our continued efforts to provide high-quality care to our nursing home residents and keep people employed,” it said.

The cuts are the result of a state budget, signed by Gov. Chris Christie, that calls for a $75 million reduction in Medicaid spending on long-term care.

“We view the situation very seriously,” said Susan Grosser, executive director of Daughters of Israel nursing home in West Orange

Unless the cuts are restored, Daughters’ reimbursement rates will decrease by $11.89 a day for each resident.

“That equates to $900,000 for the calendar year 2012,” Grosser told NJ Jewish News in a Dec. 16 telephone interview. “We have had to prepare a very bare-bones budget for next year.”

While she insisted it will not affect “the course-of-care services we provide our residents,” Grosser said that because of the cuts, “we were not able to provide any salary increases for our staff. We are reviewing and monitoring all of our staffing and expenses very carefully. Our basic business is taking care of people, so we cannot reduce the resources we provide, but we need to monitor overtime very carefully. We just need to keep an eye on it.”

As austere contingency plans are being made, agency heads are also fighting to prevent the cuts from taking effect.

“Each of our communities is visiting their state legislators to see if they can get support for supplemental appropriations to restore the cuts, but it is going to be very difficult,” predicted Jacob Toporek, executive director of the State Association.

“There is already a $260 million hole in the state’s fiscal year 2011 budget, and legislators have told us we should seek a restoration in 2013, but once something is cut it is very difficult to get it restored,” he told NJJN. “Although we are working toward trying to get supplemental appropriations in the lame duck session which ends on Jan. 9, I think our meetings — if not successful on that track — will at least lay a good foundation for 2013.”

Toporek said his immediate efforts are especially focused on Christie’s fellow Republicans in the legislature.

“The concern is the governor’s veto. He is not going to take on any new spending. The Republicans can vote for the appropriations, but will they vote to override his veto? That is problematic,” he said.

Melanie Gorelick, director of the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest and the Jewish Federation of Central NJ and their CRC lay leaders, lobbied for restoration of the funding during Super Sunday, MetroWest’s and Central’s all-day fund-raising phonathon on Dec. 4.

She and other CRC leaders met with state legislators who attended the event.

Among those who took part in the off-the-record sessions were State Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. (R-Dist. 21), State Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Dist. 21), and State Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Dist. 27).

In addition, the CRC organized a letter-writing campaign on Super Sunday and sent an action alert to the MetroWest and Central communities.

“We are alarmed by the devastating impact of Medicaid reimbursement cuts on Daughters of Israel and other nursing homes throughout the state,” Gorelick told NJJN.

Working together, Gorelick and Grosser are enlisting support from the community “to help us with the extra special things we do, and I am relying on them even more heavily now. It is very important that we send out a strong message that this is hurting the frailest of the frail throughout the state,” she said.

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