NH nursing homes tell Shaheen they can't afford 'Trumpcare'

June 30, 2017

MANCHESTER — Nursing home administrators from around the state came together Friday to talk to U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about the impact on New Hampshire’s elderly if Congress passes the Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

These providers said they are already suffering because of New Hampshire’s Medicaid low reimbursement rate and that suffering will only be exacerbated by passage of the Senate’s proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), a bill Democrats refer to as “Trumpcare.”

Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, estimated each of the Granite State’s 76 nursing centers would lose $1.01 million under the proposal and most of these facilities are already operating at a loss. He called the bill “absolutely inhumane.”

He pointed to New Hampshire having the “third-worst” reimbursement rate in the country. He said Medicaid only covers 63.8 percent of the costs of care for the 17,853 Granite Staters in nursing homes.

“It’s as dark a time for long-term care as I have ever seen it,” he said. “This would be a wrecking ball for New Hampshire’s fragile long-term care system.”

The administrators predicted passage of the Republican’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act would result in nursing home closures and facilities refusing to take Medicaid patients. They said it’s already hard enough to fill jobs with the state facing a health care worker shortage, but this bill would push the dwindling work force to look more at jobs outside New Hampshire with better wages.

“We’re already in a caregiver crisis and I don’t even know how we can prepare for what’s coming,” said Lynda Goldthwaite of Aurora Senior Living in Derry. “The uncertainty is really palpable now.”

Catholic Charities operates facilities with over 500 beds, including the Mt. Carmel Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, where the group of 15 met to talk about the bill to be voted on by the Senate after its Fourth of July break.

Thomas Blonski, Catholic Charities’ CEO and president, said Mt. Carmel is already operating at a $700,000 deficit because of the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rate.

“I can think of no better way to characterize the incredible extreme that this Medicaid funding crisis has reached than to that, in effect, we’re now providing charity to the state itself,” Blonski said.

Senate leaders postponed a vote on the BCRA because a growing number of Republican senators have come out against it. They came out after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated 22 million Americans would lose health care coverage by 2026.

Shaheen has been outspoken against both the House and Senate versions of the bill and thanked Republican Gov. Chris Sununu for also taking a stand against it. She said there are issues with the Affordable Health Care Act that need to be addressed, but the proposed repeal is not the answer.

“All of this is being done to give breaks to those who don’t need it,” Shaheen said. “The focus should be how do we make sure people get the care they need.”

Blonski agreed.

“Many seniors are living longer. Many are outliving their resources and are forced to rely on Medicaid for their long-term care needs toward the end of their lives,” Blonksi said. “Their lives matter. They built the foundation for who we are as a country today.”

By:  Gretchen M. Grosky
Source: Union Leader