To The Herald-Whig:
President Barack Obama concluded his three-day Midwest bus tour last week at a town hall meeting in Alpha, Ill., and his swing through America's rural communities shed light on the specific challenges faced by the nation's rural states and regions.
Focusing on the intersection between high quality, accessible health care and important key health sector jobs is essential when assessing the financial stability of nursing home care for rural Illinois' seniors. The strength of rural Illinois' jobs and economic base is directly related to adequate Medicare and Medicaid funding for our frail elderly.
Future cuts to Medicare and Medicaid from the newly empowered Congressional "Super Committee" will negatively affect rural seniors' future ability to access quality nursing home care and will undoubtedly undermine America's rural jobs base since Medicare and Medicaid are more than just vital health programs, but key rural economic drivers.
The fragility of Illinois' Medicaid program is apparent in the differential between the actual cost of providing quality care and what Medicaid actually reimburses Illinois facilities, which is $21.95 per patient day, according to a recent Eljay study released by the American Health Care Association (AHCA).
While quality patient care is at stake in the broad national discussion, jobs and the very well-being of our frontline caregiver community are also at stake. Second only to hospitals as the state and nation's largest health facility employer, Illinois' skilled nursing and rehab facilities generate a substantial $10.72 billion in state economic activity annually, help create 120,991 local jobs and directly employ 79,458 workers.
Nursing homes throughout the state are a major local employer of key frontline care staff. Strong Medicaid and Medicare funding are needed to maintain ongoing quality improvement programs now benefitting Illinois seniors.
Our most vulnerable frail, elderly and disabled patients deserve the best care, and we will do whatever we can do to help ensure this is always the case. We respectfully urge Washington policymakers to do the same.
Theresa Forsey, CNA,
Certified Physical Restorative Aide,