- Published: Thursday, 24 August 2017 13:08
Written by Sean Roark, Special to The Chronicle
Nine Senate Republicans broke party rank to ice the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas was one of them. Though a longtime supporter of the repeal of the ACA, Sen. Moran felt The Better Care Reconciliation Act failed to do so, and also didn’t adequately address the rising costs of healthcare.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” said Sen. Moran. “We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.”
Though Moran’s vote garnered national attention, local ties that may have helped to influence him did not.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City initiated a meeting with Sen. Moran’s Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Richard. There, representatives from Jewish Federation and Village Shalom shared their concerns on the potential impact of the bill on Kansas Medicaid recipients. After hearing of the discussion, Sen. Moran sought to personally meet with the two organizations to learn more about the issues.
“As a major funder of Village Shalom, those of us at JFED became deeply concerned about the negative impact of the Better Care Reconciliation Act on the seniors in our local community, as well as the long-term health of the organizations that provide services for this population,” said Dr. Helene Lotman, president and CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the BCRA would have cut Medicaid funding by an estimated $800 billion throughout the next decade — a roughly 25 percent reduction. The CBO characterized the cuts as “draconian” given the potentially devastating impact on Medicaid recipients.
This legislation hit particularly close to home for Village Shalom, as the continuing-care retirement community’s long-term skilled nursing areas are certified for Kansas Medicaid. Medicaid recipients account for 34 percent of the community’s census in these areas.
“The Medicaid program is an integral part of our mission,” said Village Shalom President & CEO Matt Lewis. “Village Shalom has never asked anyone to leave due to a lack of resources.”
Though the costs of healthcare continue to increase at a rapid pace each year, Medicaid reimbursements have remained relatively flat. To make up for the “gap” in costs and Medicaid reimbursements, Village Shalom subsidizes its Medicaid services between $1.3 and $1.5 million annually. Had the proposed legislation passed, Lewis estimates the community’s bottom line would have been adversely impacted by approximately $3.2 million throughout the next decade.
“This impact is something Village Shalom would not have been able to absorb,” said Lewis. “To survive, we would have had to either significantly lower our Medicaid census, or exit the program all together.”
Sen. Moran joined Dr. Lotman and Lewis along with Village Shalom Board Chair Karen Glickstein and Jewish Federation Board Chair John Isenberg for a tour of the Overland Park retirement community on Aug. 7. The senator learned about Village Shalom’s levels of care, the services it provides, and also met with a number of the community’s staff and residents.
“The senator was very attentive to our concerns,” said Lewis. “He asked a lot of questions and was genuine in his comments.”
Though Medicaid providers like Village Shalom may have won this battle, there is still much work to be done before both sides find common ground.
“This legislation would have driven a lot of Medicaid providers out of the program and left countless seniors with very few options to receive vital care,” said Lewis. “We are thankful for Sen. Moran’s stance on this issue, and his willingness to continue to work toward a sensible solution to our country’s healthcare challenges.”