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Nursing homes start campaign to continue their special treatment

The counterattack has begun – nursing home interests looking to siphon money out of taxpayers against the public interest. Such was the gist of ads run in the press; the Louisiana Nursing Home Association ran a full-page advertisement in Tuesday's edition of The Advocate asking residents to tell Gov. Kathleen Blanco to put the brakes on the cuts to its member homes.

Never mind that Louisiana currently reimburses nursing homes at a rate far more generous than the typical state. Never mind that instituting standards promoting efficiency would save the state $97 million, according to the Legislative Auditor. Never mind that the current system prevents truly free choice for deciding the best care for those who need long term care and that it come perilously close, if it does not already to violating court orders regarding those in need of long term care.

The ad declares that “slashing $60 million from Louisiana's nursing homes will cut health-care jobs and jeopardize quality care for Louisiana's most frail, vulnerable citizens.” That’s a lie: Louisiana’s nursing homes are making a good profit, and the governor is asking to cut less than 10% from their current revenues, such as refusing to pay them for unoccupied beds as is the current practice, which would still leave these properties on average with a profitable situation.

The head of the interest group said the cut in reimbursement rates is equal to the loss of an average two nurses and eight nurses' aides per home. No -- state law dictates the number of employees per home which, according to the Legislative auditor, already is ridiculously low; they can’t cut jobs. In fact, refusing to pay these institutions for empty beds merely will eat into the profits of them which, yes, may drive some of them out of the nursing home business and into other uses, as the marketplace always dictates when poor business decisions create overcapacity.

The callousness of the industry, if not indicated by the poor quality of the care many of them give, certainly comes through when these operators continue to try to extract money out of the state taxpayers regardless of the best use of that money for taxpayers and for those who need long term care. The governor and legislature need to stand fast against these jackals and approve her budget regarding this issue.

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