As a part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, significant cuts to many states’ Medicare budgets will reduce the funding available for nursing home care. The cuts, which are already in the process of being implemented, will be fully completed by 2015. Nationwide, they represent a total reduction in funding of more than $355 million annually. However, the actual impact that this will have on each state varies considerably.
Most heavily affected by the cuts to nursing home care is Florida, which will receive $60.5 million less in Medicare funding. Additionally, Ohio ($30.5 million), Illinois ($28.8 million), Pennsylvania ($24.2 million), and North Carolina ($22.6 million) will also experience significant reductions in federal assistance for covering the costs of nursing home care in the state.
The impact that these cuts may have on the quality of care available in nursing homes across the country, and in these states in particular, may be considerable. Reduced funding typically has two types of effects: reducing patient access to affordable nursing home facilities and reducing the overall quality of care available at these facilities. In this situation, it is probable that the reduction in federal funding will have a combination of the two effects.
There are a number of ways in which patient quality of care can be affected by funding cuts to nursing homes. At the most basic level, funding cuts often require nursing homes to reduce staffing levels, which can have a disastrous impact for nursing home residents. Without the proper supervision and medical attention that nursing home residents typically require, patient health outcomes often deteriorate considerably, with issues such as an increasing prevalence of bed sores and medication errors becoming more common when staffing levels are inadequate to meet patient needs.
Less clearly visible but of potentially equal danger to nursing home residents is the possibility that reduced funding will cause a higher percentage of the nursing home population to choose cheaper, lower quality alternatives that they might not have otherwise considered previously. Low cost nursing homes provide a valuable service to many, but the sad reality is that, in some cases, these facilities are able to generate sufficient revenue only by cutting back on important services to their residents. Generally speaking, it is in these types of conditions that nursing home abuse is much more likely to occur, as facilities with a decreased emphasis on background checks and quality of care may be more liable to expose residents to dangerous situations.
Individuals who have suffered the effects of nursing home abuse are often already in a vulnerable position, emotionally and physically, and this type of abuse can lead to a deterioration of their condition, potentially requiring costly medical care and leaving the individual badly traumatized. These types of outcomes are unacceptable, and many families choose to enlist the support of a nursing home abuse lawyer to help their loved ones get the justice they need in these situations. Unfortunately, the looming Medicare cuts may only increase the prevalence of these problems.