Possible Medicare cuts may have local affect

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 5, 2002

Come Oct. 1, nursing homes may be out of 10 percent in Medicare payments.

That's when a federal funding program established in 1999 will run out.

Local nursing homes are concerned how the cuts would affect services and staffing.

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Jim Ingersoll, administrator at St. Mark's Lutheran Home, said $150,000 would be cut if the legislature does not restore funding by then.

Ingersoll said the cuts will affect the home heavily because many of its medicare patients are there to use its rehabilitation services -- a service that some nursing homes in the area do not provide. Currently about 137 St. Mark's patients use medicare.

"It's really taking a big chunk out of a place such as St. Mark's," Ingersoll said.

Patients use Medicare to pay for short stays in a home, such as rehabilitation.

Recently the House passed a bill that would give 1.7 billion to nursing homes nationally. The Senate has yet to pass a similar bill. Originally the funding cut was going to be more than it is now, but President George W. Bush restored half of those funds, Ingersoll said.

If the bill is not approved, Ingersoll does not know exactly how it will affect St. Mark's.

"It's going to affect the operations negatively," Ingersoll said. "I hesitate to jump to anything."

Ingersoll said he thinks the senate will pass a bill to restore funding by October, however.

Mark Robinson, administrator at Prairie Manor in Blooming Prairie, said the cuts may affect its staff.

"We've got a little bit of time, but it looks like there will be some cuts," Robinson said.

Prairie Manor has 78 beds and 115 full and part time employees and he is concerned about maintaining the services it offers.

"I hope it's not too dramatic," he said. "Our senior citizens are a pretty precious commodity in our communities."

Duane Mallon, of Adams Health Care Center, said he isn't sure how a cut would affect the center.

"Any reduction in payments in the nursing home industry is going to have an impact," Mallon said.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at cari.quam@austindailyherald.com