Combined funding cuts could put some Florida nursing homes out of business

An 11.4 percent cut of Medicare funding through a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services kicked in on October 1. That followed a 6.5 percent cut for Medicaid funding nursing homes passed by the Florida Legislature that began in July is leaving some facilities in the state reeling.

Allen, who travels often to Tallahassee and Washington D.C. as an advocate for nursing home services, says the combined cuts equals $30,000 less that he had been receiving for his facility - which translates into his entire profit margin. He says the only way to just break even now is to cut costs, and with 70 percent of those costs in labor, well, that doesn't augur for maintaining the same number of employees.

The Florida Health Care Association has been concentrating its efforts on trying to convince members of the Legislature to restore those cuts. There is also the fear that the Congressional super committee will reduce Medicare funding as they try to find common ground on identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years by next month. If they can't come together, an automatic trigger will cut $1.2 trillion in spending (Newt Gingrich has been calling the creation of the super committee "dumb" for over a month now).

Though Social Security and Medicaid are exempt from the trigger, Medicare is not.

Scott Allen with The Palm Garden of Tampa, believes with the cuts that any nursing home facility in the state that houses less than 100 residents is extremely vulnerable to its very existence (He has 120 beds at his shop). Anecdotally, he says, he's heard from six to eight such homes could go under.

And Allen, whose 97-year-old grandmother is among the patients at his facility, stresses that the quality of care won't deteriorate at facilities such as his, but admits that "things are really, really hurting now."

He suggests for anybody who cares and would like to do something about this, that they should volunteer their services at a nursing home near them. "If people actually go into a nursing home and experience it, we're not what people expect," he says.

You hear a lot these days about fears of budget cuts cutting into essential services, such as health care.

The fact is those cuts have already happened, and are already having a deleterious effect here in Florida.

Scott Allen runs the Palm Garden of Tampa for profit nursing home, an 120 licensed bed facility that offers senior care services.

But he says that with recent combined funding cuts to Medicare and Medicaid funded nursing home care in 2011, his profit margin is now history, and he fears that up to six or eight such facilities in the state could close down soon because of those cuts.

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