Earlier this year, the New York State Health Department announced it would pursue a change in Medicaid reimbursements that would effectively cut nearly a quarter billion dollars in funding to hundreds of nonprofit nursing homes. As a mission-focused provider that has been proudly serving the community since 1848, we faced a choice: stand up to these cuts and fight for thousands of nursing home residents in New York State, or do nothing and jeopardize the quality of care they depend on. We chose to fight.
In November, The New Jewish Home and dozens of other nonprofits successfully sued to temporarily block New York State from imposing these draconian Medicaid cuts that would devastate hundreds of nursing homes and their residents. The fight is far from over. Now we need your help in urging State lawmakers and the Department of Health to fairly fund nursing homes.
At a time when we should be focusing on how to increase our capacity to care for frail and impoverished older adults, it is especially alarming that the state wants to implement cuts that will severely hinder access to care for those who need it most. Specifically, we believe older adults deserve to have staff who are trained to know them and their needs on a deep and compassionate level. They should receive unparalleled clinical care and enriching therapeutic programs — which is why we proudly provide these benefits to the community. The Medicaid cuts, however, will certainly alter the person-directed care we offer.
Keep in mind, Medicaid reimbursements already fail to cover the full cost of the comprehensive care we provide to our nursing home residents. Though our expenses increase an average of three percent each year — keeping up with salaries and benefits, insurance, food and supplies, utilities and aging building maintenance — Medicaid has not issued a cost-of-living adjustment since 2007, more than a decade ago. Our charitable donors and partner organizations help to close the gap, but in order to provide the appropriate level of care, we must be able to rely on the social safety net that Medicaid is intended to be.
I can’t help but think that this boils down to ageism. As a society we do not seem to value or embrace older adults, we view them instead as a burden or financial drain. It’s concerning when I hear the term “silver tsunami” used to describe the cost in dollars of caring for the most susceptible and frail among us — our mothers, fathers, neighbors and fellow humans. I cannot conceive of a more deadly or violent term to inappropriately describe the vulnerable population we at The New Jewish Home are privileged to serve.
The language we use, along with our negative preconceptions, needs to change. So should the way we, as a progressive society, fund the care of older adults. In order to provide the proper care they require and deserve, we need the decision makers in Albany to be true partners so we can come up with real solutions.
Jeffrey Farber, M.D.
President and CEO