Letters to the Editor

Increase Medicaid funding

Every year, the media report the latest government ratings of nursing facilities. It’s understandable given we want to know which facilities are best for our loved ones.

But ratings don’t tell the whole story. If government wants to give an accurate grade, officials should start looking at how they’ve funded Medicaid over the past decade, because we’re approaching a crisis.

Pennsylvania has the fourth-largest population of people older than 85 in the U.S. The need for services including nursing facilities is exploding; yet Pennsylvania isn’t keeping pace with health-care inflation. In fact, Pennsylvania has failed to provide an increase on three occasions, including flat-funding the current state budget.

As a result, facilities lose $20 to $25 per day for every Medicaid resident in their care. Nearly 2 out of every 3 residents rely on Medicaid, which equates to a loss that makes it impossible for facilities to keep up, let alone improve.

Pennsylvania can begin to address this by taking two steps this year.

First, Medicaid funding must be increased by at least 3.5 percent in the 2016-17 budget. Second, Pennsylvania must fully fund the Medical Assistance Day One Incentive, a program created to help preserve access to care for vulnerable seniors on Medicaid.

For a decade, facilities have been asked to do more with less and are graded without regard to funding cuts. It’s time to make seniors a priority in this budget and give facilities the resources necessary to achieve their mission.

Ronald Barth and W. Russell McDaid

Barth is president and CEO of LeadingAge PA; McDaid is the president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association.