R.I. Skilled Nursing Facilities Could Lose Millions in Federal Medicare Reimbursements

Sep 18, 2002
(Washington, D.C.)–Congressman Jim Langevin today announced his support of legislation that would delay scheduled cuts for nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Rhode Island.

 Langevin is co-sponsoring the Medicare Skilled Nursing Beneficiary Protection Act, sponsored by Congressman Tom Allen (D-ME), which would extend Medicare reimbursement add-ons for three years, through 2005, to allow the Administration more time to implement an adequate reimbursement formula for skilled nursing facilities.  The bill's sponsors hope this new timetable will obviate the need for further cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates, which would place severe financial burdens on nursing facilities.

 “Difficult decisions were made in 1997 with passage of the Balanced Budget Act, and some of the changes were not implemented as Congress intended,” said Congressman Langevin.  “The Medicare Skilled Nursing Beneficiary Protection Act will postpone further cuts and ensure that critical funding remains available for the thousands of Rhode Islanders who rely on skilled nursing services.”

 In mid-1998, the new Medicare prospective payment system (PPS) was implemented for skilled nursing care, as mandated in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act (BBA).  The new system resulted in cuts far deeper than intended by Congress.  

In 1999 and 2000, Congress temporarily restored some of the unintended cuts as part of the Balanced Budget Refinement Act (BBRA) and the Benefits Improvement and Protection Act (BIPA).  These temporary add-ons helped restore beneficiary access to care, but overall Medicare funding levels for skilled nursing care facilities continue to be below BBA projections.

Unless Congress acts this year, Medicare funding for skilled nursing care will be cut by 10% in 2003 and 19% in 2004 - translating to cuts of nearly $35 per patient, per day in 2003 and $68 in 2004.  In Rhode Island, the cuts will be even greater than the national average, totaling $38.61 in 2003 and $76.90 in 2004.  This is known as the “Medicare Cliff” and is scheduled to occur on October 1, 2002.  If the “cliff” occurs, Medicare beneficiaries once again will face serious access problems and quality of care will be threatened for a critical sector.  

“I am wholly committed to making the restorations of 1999 and 2000 permanent,” added Langevin.  “We cannot turn our backs on a generation who built and defended the very foundations of this nation.  They answered the call of our nation - now we must answer theirs.”