Many Worried About Effect on Senior Care Following Nursing Home Job Cuts

Federal policy decisions related to the deficit and budget have ramifications in virtually all sectors of society. It is sometimes easy to forget how widespread the effects would be if certain proposed budget cuts are carried out. For example, in virtually all debt reduction proposals, significant Medicare cuts are involved. Medical care and long-term care spending represent a significant portion of the federal budget, and so it is expected that all serious proposals at trimming the budget and deficit will at least refer to those costs. However, the consequences of those cuts should not be minimized. It is not a stretch to say that instances of Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect may increase as a result of certain cuts.

For example, the Sacramento Bee reported last week that in one state alone there has already been about 2800 nursing home jobs lost as a direct result of Medicare and Medicaid funding tightening. This is before much larger possible cuts take effect. The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care explained today that these losses may represent just the beginning of a large-scale national trend. The problem stems from an 11.1 percent reduction in Medicare funding which went into effect at the beginning of October. The reduction was billed as a “correction,” but has resulted in significant cuts which have led some large nursing home chains to respond by slashing nursing home jobs. Of course, the lost jobs are almost exclusively direct care staff, meaning that residents ultimately suffer by having fewer care workers helping them with their daily needs. Time and again a reduction in staff to patient ratios has been found to lead to increased instances of nursing home neglect.

According to estimates, over a ten year period, the 11.1 percent reduction will cost nationwide nursing homes $79 billion. One alternative option that some are proposing is a three-year phase in of the reductions. In this way, the overall rates will still be lowered as desired, but the effect on the industry might be much less sudden and substantial. Some industry insiders say that the phase-in would avoid the mass direct care staff layoffs. Also, they point to the face that similar phase-ins have been allowed for other sectors.

These financial issues always present a unique mix of issues. On one hand, it is important to ensure that the nation’s fiscal health is secure. However, there are many questions about whether or not this large of a cut has to happen without a phase-in. At the end of the day, the care of the residents must be prioritized. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. For example, our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers know that frequently, when the largest nursing homes chains are faced with monetary issues (such as these Medicare cuts) their immediate response is to lay off care workers. This is the case even though they know that the reduction leads to worsening care and more instances of nursing home neglect. Often there are ways for higher level administrators to take temporary reductions in profits as an alternative. Yet, lowering the profits is often the last thing that any of these chains will do, even if it means harming residents in the process.

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