Friday, November 30, 2007

Medicare Cuts Have Disproprotionate Impact on Rural Communities

The current discussion regarding health care reform has a tremendous impact on rural America. One of the proposed funding cuts is to seniors’ Medicare benefits for skilled nursing facilities. At least in Kentucky, 55 percent of its nursing homes are located in rural areas, which means that rural areas may be hit particularly hard by any such Medicare cuts.

One article finds, “[S] eniors in rural America would shoulder approximately 25 percent of the total five year, $2.7 billion Medicare cuts -- yet in states with higher rural populations, rural seniors and the skilled nursing facilities that serve them would bear disproportionately greater cuts. In particular, Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas requiring skilled nursing care would suffer significant reductions in daily funding. In addition, the national long term care leaders emphasized, rural facilities would be increasingly forced to choose between the urgent staffing needs that impact quality in the near-term versus refurbishing facilities, upgrading technology, and purchasing new equipment -- which impacts future care quality.”

With less Medicare funding, it would not only hurt the quality of care for seniors, it also has an impact on rural economies which rely on nursing homes for employment. It would have a disproportionately negative impact on rural facilities, which make finding and retaining qualify staff more challenging that it already is.

Often times, nursing facilities may be the largest local employer, and those rural economies depend on such facilities for jobs and economic development. Cuts from Medicare could result in lost jobs, less hiring, and higher unemployment

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