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Nursing Home Groups Backing House Medicare Payments Plan

While a Medicare payments plan would likely force groups focused on nursing homes to make sacrifices, they say the benefits of the 'doc fix' bill outweigh the cost of restrictions in long-term care pay.

Things are looking up in Washington for groups focused on elderly care.

A Medicare bill that passed the House on Thursday would permanently solve the yearly “doc fix” issue, ensuring that the Medicare reimbursement for doctors stays in place. Even better, the president has said he would sign the legislation.

The American Health Care Association and others have previously expressed their intent to “enthusiastically support” the bipartisan plan that would permanently fix Medicare reimbursement for doctors.

Nursing homes that take part in AHCA’s National Center for Assisted Living group are excited about positive changes in the 65-and-over health plan. LeadingAge is also backing the efforts.

The congressional package would cease cuts to “doc fix” payments, which AHCA says hurt its members’ work.

“It’s no secret that the annual doc fix has decimated provider groups,” the group’s president and CEO, Mark Parkinson, told The Hill.

The plan would cap increases in long-term care to 1 percent beginning in 2018 to help pay for the legislative package.

“While we don’t believe we can or should sustain any additional cut, we do believe that the benefits of a long-term doc fix outweigh the cost that we currently understand we would incur,” Parkinson said.

Previously, Congress handled the issue by continuously making short-term fixes on lowering physician payments, which constantly put the funding in danger. If the bill doesn’t pass the Senate by March 30, for example, providers will see their reimbursements cut by 21.2 percent.

“There’s no reason to believe this will get any better without a permanent fix.” Parkinson said.

AHCA has discussed with legislators that it would only support the “doc fix” if they intended to not place further cuts in the coming years.

Another industry nonprofit organization, LeadingAge, told McKnight’s that the plan is a “truly sustainable reform of the physician payment plan under Medicare.”

The group said it looks forward to keeping relations strong with Congress and the White House to improve Medicare. LeadingAge suggested nixing therapy caps and simplifying hospital observation days as improvements.

“I think this week will be a test of whether big things can happen in DC,” Parkinson said of the looming March 30 deadline for the doc fix legislation.

LeadingAge President and CEO Larry Minnix agrees.

“[It is] encouraging that Congress is taking the doc fix bull by the horns in a bipartisan way,” Minnix said.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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