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Residents rally against proposed Medicaid cuts

August 25, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - More than 75 people attended a rally Wednesday in Morgan County to hear about proposed Medicaid cuts to nursing homes.

The rally, at Berkeley Springs Rehabilitation and Nursing, will be followed by six more rallies across the state in August and September, said Michael Anderson, the regional director and owner-operator of the facility.

Anderson said about $30 million of West Virginia's general revenue is spent on long-term care in West Virginia, and about $112 million to $115 million of federal funding would be lost with the Medicaid cuts because every dollar the state spends on Medicaid, the federal government matches three-to-one.

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According to medicaidmatters2005.org, Congress passed a budget resolution with $10 billion in entitlement cuts over five years, which might affect the millions of Americans who depend on Medicaid.

By September, congressional committees will craft legislation to produce these cuts and advocates are gearing up to urge their congressional delegations and governors to oppose some of the proposals, according to the Web site.

The Web site states two key objectives:

  • That the entire $10 billion cut does not have to come from Medicaid.

  • That cuts should not compromise people's access to health care or shift costs onto states.


Anderson said the key to quality care in nursing facilities is funding. He said the proposed cuts would result in a reduction of services and potential employee layoffs at nursing homes. There are 16,000 nursing facility jobs throughout the state, he said.

He said 40 percent of long-term providers in West Virginia will face extreme financial difficulty and possible closure. Medicaid is the primary funding source for 74 percent of nursing home residents in the state. About 80 percent of the Berkeley Springs facility residents would be affected by the Medicaid cuts, Anderson said.

"This facility will close if these proposed cuts go through," Anderson said.

Virginia Treadway, 80, has a daughter in Berkeley Springs Rehabilitation and Nursing. Margaret Treadway, who has been in the facility since February, is in her late 50s and has multiple medical problems, Virginia Treadway said.

"I can't get her up when she falls," Treadway said.

"I am devastated by the thought of Medicaid funding cuts. A letter is going to be sent to the W.Va. Legislature opposing these cuts," she said.

"No other health care service for the aged and disabled is nearly as comprehensive or affordable," Anderson said.

Del. Charles S. Trump, R-Morgan, said "typically the West Virginia DHHR (Department of Health and Human Resources) sets the reimbursement rate for Medicaid providers. I will talk to Martha Walker, the secretary of the DHHR, to see if there are alternatives to these proposed cuts."

"I will insist they examine every possibility before making these cuts," Trump said.

Trump suggested people write or e-mail Gov. Manchin's office to express their opposition to the Medicaid funding cuts.

Connie Tomshack, the administrator of Berkeley Springs Rehabilitation and Nursing, said, "When I look at Medicaid entitlements, the last area we should be looking to cut is our elderly, who are the most vulnerable. And as a society, if we don't take care of our elders, where are we headed?"

"Costs are increasing rapidly, and West Virginia has an older population with the highest median age, and we have to take care of them," Trump said.

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