State Watch: Long-Term Care News from Around the Nation (9/10/2012)

As assisted living regulations evolve, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements fluctuate, and healthcare reform begins to take effect, many states are facing their own challenges as they continue to develop, operate, and implement new rules and programs. Here is a collection of long-term care related news bites from across the nation.

From the CourierPress.com (Ind.)—State Gets $78 Million for Home, Community Services

Indiana is getting $78 million to help seniors and people with disabilities live in their communities instead of nursing homes or other facilities. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the grant Tuesday. The money was provided under the federal health care law,” reports the CourierPres.com. “The CDC says in a news release that states are eligible for the grants if less than half of their total long-term care spending goes toward home and community-based services.” Read more

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From the Montgomery Advertiser (Ala.)—State Nursing Home Assoc. Pushing Amendment for Medicaid Funding

The Alabama Nursing Home Association is pushing a lot of chips into the campaign for the Sept. 18 amendment, [which] would transfer approximately $437 million from the Alabama Trust Fund to the General Fund during the next three years, roughly $145 million annually,” reports the Montgomery Advertiser. “…without the transfer, [non-education] services likely would have to be cut significantly. The cuts could fall especially hard on Alabama Medicaid, which makes up a significant portion of the state’s General Fund. With over two-thirds of nursing home residents on Medicaid, John Matson, a spokesman for the Nursing Home Association, said the vote is an urgent matter for members.” Read more

From the CalaverasEnterprise.com (Calif.)—Nursing Home Staffers Threaten Walk-Out

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“Union health care workers and representatives from two area nursing homes head back to the bargaining table Wednesday, the second time in a month those parties will look to crack an ongoing dispute over wage freezes and workload increases,” reports CalaverasEnterprise.com. “Service Employee International Union workers at Mark Twain Convalescent Hospital could be on strike by the end of the week, according to Lauren McDaniels, a restorative nursing aide at Sonora’s Avalon Care Center. Avalon spokesperson Barbara Lillemon suggested tighter industry margins have played a big part in the protracted contract negotiations, talks she characterized as a “back-and-forth” over cost of living increases.” Read more

From the Wall Street Journal—Rising Retiree Health Costs for Aging New Yorkers

“State and local governments in New York will have to come up with an additional quarter of a trillion dollars to pay the entire tab for retiree health care, according to a new report.The $250 billion bill for retiree health coverage is up from $210 billion two years ago, said the study issued by the Empire Center for New York State Policy on Wednesday. Referred to as “other post-employment benefits,” or OPEB, the unfunded obligations represent a troubling strain on budgets,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Public employers have to disclose their liabilities, but they don’t have to budget for it. Instead, as in most states, New York budgets use an accounting method known as “pay as you go” that sets aside just enough to pay the tab for the year ahead. Critics of the practice say it masks future costs, passing an ever-larger buck to future taxpayers.” Read more

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From Kaiser Health News—Calif. Pilot Offers Caveats for Moving ‘Dual Eligibles’ to Managed Care

“As federal officials evaluate state proposals to move millions of the nation’s poorest and sickest individuals into managed care plans, they might consider a recent report from the California HealthCare Foundation,” reports Kaiser Health News. “The report analyzed California’s year-long transition of 240,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities from fee-for-service plans into managed care as part of a federally approved demonstration project. [Christopher] Perrone [deputy director of the California HealthCare Foundation’s Health Reform and Public Program’s Initiative] notes that California state officials, health plans and others involved in the waiver program made “enormous effort” to develop the initiative. Nonetheless, the report noted several problems.” Read more

From AHCA—Louisiana, Mississippi Successfully Weather Hurricane Threat

“Skilled nursing care associations from the states of Louisiana and Mississippi today heralded their respective disaster response plans as the last remnants of Hurricane Isaac left their borders,” says the American Health Care Association. “In all, Louisiana evacuated 12 centers and over 1,200 residents and patients with no reported fatalities or serious injury, while an additional 55 facilities were forced to rely on generator power but did not evacuate. In Mississippi, just ten centers shifted briefly to generator power during the brunt of the hurricane, yet evacuated no facilities and reported no serious injuries.”

From the Huffington Post—DOJ: Fla. Unnecessarily Warehousing Disabled Kids in Nursing Homes

“Federal investigators say Florida officials are violating federal law by unnecessarily warehousing hundreds of children with disabilities in nursing homes,” writes the Huffington Post. “The Department of Justice sent a letter to Attorney General Pam Bondi this week, saying that in visits to six nursing homes around the state investigators identified numerous children who didn’t need to be there and “would benefit from moving home with their families or other community settings.” Federal officials concluded the state has made it difficult for children to get medical services that would allow them to move home.” Read more