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The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

November 22, 2011

Update on Deficit Reduction

As you know by now, Congress's super committee failed this week to come up with a plan that would have cut the federal deficit by $1.2 to $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Those of us whose lives bring us in daily contact with the critical role that Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans Act, and other federal programs play in long-term care can breathe a sigh of relief that a process conducted behind closed doors did not succeed. But that relief will be short-lived because concern about the deficit will not go away. Next week, the debate will begin again, and advocates must continue to support an approach to deficit reduction that is balanced between cuts and increased revenues and does not make those who are in need bear the burden of deficit reduction.

The deficit reduction law passed in August now requires $1.5 trillion in cuts to become automatic beginning in 2013, with half from domestic programs and half from defense. Medicaid would be spared cuts, and Medicare would be limited to a 2 percent reduction that would come from provider payments, not benefits. Cutting provider payments would not spare beneficiaries, of course. Nursing homes are already reducing wages, benefits, and staff. Moreover, protecting Medicare and Medicaid would ratchet up the need to take reductions from discretionary programs like the Older Americans Act, which funds the long-term care ombudsman program and a significant network of home and community-based services.

It is unlikely that either Democrats or Republicans will let a process go forward that would slash spending on programs that both hold dear, so the debate over cutting spending and raising revenues will probably continue for the remainder of this session and next year.

Advocates must continue to make a strong case to their members of Congress and the White House for programs that are essential to provide long-term care for those who cannot afford it. We must also educate Congress and the public about the role that publicly funded agencies, including survey and certification agencies and the long-term care ombudsman program, play in reducing health care costs by ensuring safety, quality and compliance. We at the Consumer Voice are as concerned as you are about the stalemate in Washington, but we are thankful that we have more time to advocate for a fair and balanced resolution to reducing the deficit without harming those who are most in need.

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Take Action on OAA

Click here to send a message to your member(s) of Congress supporting reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA).  

Since 1965, the OAA has provided services and supports that improve seniors’ lives whether they are in their own homes or nursing homes. These include services such as meals, health programs, and transportation that keep older adults in their homes; ombudsman program services that protect older adults in long- term care facilities; and elder prevention and legal services that protect seniors no matter where they live. 

The OAA is supposed to be reauthorized in 2011.  With every day that passes, the future of critical programs that serve seniors is more and more uncertain.  Help us send a message to Congress about this important program.

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Long-Term Care Network Loses Advocate

Last Friday, the long-term care advocacy network lost one of its most creative and thoughtful advocates, Virginia Fraser. Ms. Fraser was a long-time supporter of the Consumer Voice and co-author of Nursing Homes: Getting Good Care There. She was one of the founding members of the Network for Special Elders, which later became the Alzheimer’s Association. Plus as Colorado’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman for 21 years, Ms. Fraser advocated for the elderly in nursing homes and other care facilities. She made a lasting contribution and will be missed. Read more about Ms. Fraser’s contributions in the Denver Westword News and in the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

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NEW! "Facebook First Fridays" with the Consumer Voice

Join the Consumer Voice on the first Friday of every month for a lively and interactive discussion on a number of long-term care topics.

From 9am – 5pm ET, we will be chatting on our Facebook wall about issues that matter to you (and us!) the most. During this time three questions, polls and/or video comments will be posted on our Facebook page. First question posted at 9am, second at lunchtime, third in the afternoon. You just pop on and respond as much or as little as you would like (respond throughout the day or just come by one time for 5 minutes and answer a question!).

This is completely FREE and open to anyone in the public who would like to participate.

What do I have to do?  

Just go to our Facebook page ahead of time or on Facebook First Friday and press the “like” button in the upper right of your browser (near our organization's name). If you already have a Facebook account, you can get started right away, otherwise it will prompt you to create one.

You’ll see our questions right there on the main page. Jump in and participate!

What’s in it for me? 

Great dialogue with your fellow advocates….and an incentive. Each Facebook First Friday, we’ll pick a winner based on our favorite comment of the day and will reveal the winner and prize on our Facebook page. Prizes will vary, but could include: electronics, free memberships, gift certificates, Consumer Voice publications, t-shirts and more!

The debut Facebook First Friday will be held Friday, December 2 starting at 9am ET.

And we’ll let you in on a secret…the prize for the launch of Facebook Friday on Dec 2nd is the latest iPod shuffle to listen to all your favorite music.

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Federal Employees: Please Consider Giving via CFC

The Consumer Voice is a participating charity in the 2011 Combined Federal Campaign. We have successfully undergone the rigorous application process, and if you are a federal employee we encourage you to designate us as your charity of choice. If you are not a federal employee, but know people who are, please encourage them to donate! 

Our CFC donation number is 10552, under the name "The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care." To donate, indicate this number on the CFC donation form distributed to you by your federal agency employer. This number only applies to federal workplace giving programs. We are affiliated with Health & Medical Research Charities of America, and you will find our name listed under this federation category in the CFC giving brochure. Your support enables our organization to continue important advocacy efforts on behalf of long-term care consumers. Thank you.

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Free Webinar on Trends in Medicaid in Home and Community Based Programs

Join the National Research and Training Center for Personal Assistance Services (PAS Center) on Tuesday, November 29, 2011, for a free webinar entitled Trends in Medicaid home and community based programs and policies.  The webinar will draw from a unique national dataset to present the latest trends in participants, expenditures and policies for the three Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS) programs.

From this session participants will be able to: (1) identify trends in Medicaid HCBS participants, expenditures and policies, (2) understand state responses to unmet needs and fiscal crisis in terms of Medicaid program trends and policy, and (3) consider the potential impact on access to Medicaid HCBS through state policies.

The 60-minute webinar will begin at 2.00pm EST.

The webinar is fee, open to everyone and does not require pre-registration.  An archive of this webinar will be available at a later date.

Join the webinar using this link:

It is recommended that you visit this link a few minutes beforehand, as the Webinar software (Elluminate) needs to be downloaded to your computer, which can take a few minutes.

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Nursing Home Residents Can Leave for Holidays

As the holidays are rapidly approach, please keep in mind that you can leave the nursing home. Nursing home residents often want to join in family festivities and visit with children and grandchildren, but may be under the impression that they will lose Medicare coverage if they leave the facility to do so. This is not true.

The Medicare Benefit Policy Manual recognizes that although most beneficiaries are unable to leave their facility, "an outside pass or short leave of absence for the purpose of attending a special religious service, holiday meal, family occasion, going on a car ride, or for a trial visit, is not, by itself evidence that the individual no longer needs to be in a SNF for the receipt of required skilled care."

Residents receiving Medicaid may also be eligible to leave for overnight visits and still have their bed paid for if their state has a therapeutic leave or bed hold policy. Each state’s rules are different so residents and families need to have all the facts before planning an overnight visit. Get more information on this fact sheet.

For more information, review the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s Fall 2011 Update.

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About The Gazette

The Gazette is a weekly e-newsletter, published by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care and the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. If you do not wish to continue receiving this publication, please unsubscribe. Your contributions and comments are welcome and should be sent to swells@theconsumervoice.org. Copyright © 2011.

The Consumer Voice is the leading national voice representing consumers in issues related to long-term care, helping to ensure that consumers are empowered to advocate for themselves. We are a primary source of information and tools for consumers, families, caregivers, advocates and ombudsmen to help ensure quality care for the individual. The Consumer Voice's mission is to represent consumers at the national level for quality long-term care, services and supports.

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National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care - 1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 425 - Washington, DC 20036 - telephone: (202) 332-2275 - fax: (202) 332-2949 - info@theconsumervoice.org