Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Long-term care providers, lawmakers meet

By Russ Mitchell, Daily Reporter Staff

Less than three months are left before the 2009 session, but expect long-term care concerns to be on the agenda when state Sen. David Johnson and state Rep. Mike May return to Des Moines.
They were on hand at Longhouse-Northshire to talk with health care providers.

"We're holding 28 of these legislative forums throughout the state of Iowa and we want to really stress to the legislators the importance of access to health care," said Steve Ackerson, the executive director of the Iowa Health Care Association and Iowa Center for Assisted Living. "Right now, we see some barriers out there. One is that we have a really heavy regulatory process that sometimes curtails admissions."

The lack of Medicare reimbursement in Iowa has sometimes made if difficult for Iowans with acute needs to be admitted for long-term care, Ackerson said.

"Our Medicaid reimbursement system is 48th in the country," he said. "That's about $41 per day below the national average."

Ackerson's group represents about 75 percent of the state's long-term care organizations. He would like to see lawmakers implement a quality assurance fee. When the state reimburses the industry for the fee through Medicaid, the process captures a critical federal match.

The excess from the federal matching funds would allow providers to enhance services, increase access for health care for low-income individuals and create a fund for nursing home employees who lost possessions in the eastern Iowa floods. Funds would also go toward infrastructure. Ackerson said Iowa has some of the oldest facilities in the country. He'd also like to see the insurance premiums for nursing home employees to go down.

May, a Spirit Lake Republican, said he would make a concerted effort to push through provider increases through Medicaid in the 2009 session.

"Everyone knows it's just not adequate to maintain the kind of health care staff and specialists that we need in rural Iowa," May said. "If we're not willing to make that commitment, then rural Iowa is in deep trouble. Frankly, we know that we're aging. We know that we have health issues because of that. But we need to simply make that commitment to rural Iowans."