Vulnerable Seniors, Individuals in Need of Specialized Care Put at Risk
TRENTON – Senators Paul A. Sarlo and Bob Gordon today said they were frustrated that Senate Republicans failed to vote in support of a resolution overriding the Governor’s line-item veto cutting the reimbursement rate for nursing home care of Medicaid recipients and individuals dealing with severe, chronic and debilitating medical conditions.
“When we talk about balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable and frail residents in the State, we should look no further than nursing home residents and individuals in need of specialized care,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic. “These cuts go to the very heart of our State’s priorities, and our commitment to seniors and individuals with very serious medical conditions. It seems unbelievable to me that care for our most vulnerable seniors and sick children should be minimized to a line-item in a budget, and there’s no question that we could have afforded to overturn this cut.”
“The continued care for the 29,000 Medicaid beneficiaries living in New Jersey’s nursing homes is a labor of love by dedicated staff members who believe our State’s seniors deserve a measure of dignity and respect in their final years,” said Senator Gordon, D-Bergen. “These are our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles, the disappearing faces of the greatest generation. Governor Christie’s cuts to the reimbursement rate of care for these individuals is cruel, and the fact that Senate Republicans could not stand up for these individuals is absolutely unconscionable.”
The resolution, SCR-238, would have overridden Governor Christie’s line-item veto of $29.6 million for the nursing home care of Medicaid recipients. Under Governor Christie’s proposed budget in February, the reimbursement rate for nursing home services for Medicaid recipients — $8.35 an hour per patient, or $168.09 a day – was proposed to be cut by three percent. In the FY 2012 Budget approved by the Legislature, the funds for nursing home care for this population was restored, but the Governor cut the funding in his line-item veto.
In addition to the rate cut for nursing homes, Special Care Nursing Facilities (SCNFs), which serve individuals requiring specialized, around-the-clock care, would also be affected. These facilities support individuals living with traumatic brain injury, Huntington’s Disease, and HIV/AIDS.
According to the bill sponsors, New Jersey’s investment in nursing homes and Special Care Nursing Facilities is matched by the federal government on a 1:1 ratio, meaning that the $29.6 million cut in State aid would result in a total cut of $59.2 million systemwide. Finally, Governor Christie’s final budget cut the reimbursement that nursing homes receive to keep open beds for elderly, hospitalized New Jerseyans by $7.5 million, which would have also been matched on a 1:1 ratio with federal dollars.
“The reality is that these stark cuts will result in some facilities shutting their doors,” said Senator Gordon. “This isn’t about sharing the pain in the FY 2012 Budget. This is about imposing undue pain on individuals who can least afford it.”
“We have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable, the frail, and the elderly and the Governor’s shock and awe budget and line-item veto document turns its back on that obligation,” said Senator Sarlo. “Vulnerable people will suffer as a result of the Governor’s cuts and the Senate Republicans failure to stand up to their chief executive. Nursing home residents and individuals in special care facilities should be beyond politicization, but Governor Christie and New Jersey Republicans chose instead to force these people to bear a measure of pain in the FY 2012 Budget.”
The resolution received 24 votes in the affirmative from Senate Democrats, but failed to garner the 2/3 majority vote needed – or 27 votes – to override the Governor’s veto.