Editorial: Government responsible for senior care

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 31, 2002

The elder-care industry in America didn’t have a choice about becoming dependent on the government for funding. In a system where most residents of nursing homes and other care facilities pay their way with Medicare, and where the government decides how much Medicare is going to pay, it’s not hard to understand why federal decisions about Medicare funding are so important to the people who provide these services &045; and the people who receive them.

When the government cuts Medicare compensation rates, as it is going to do on Oct. 1, care facilities’ ability to do their job is weakened. They have a harder time paying for improvements to their facilities. And they have trouble paying staff a competitive wage, which is part of the reason for a high turnover rate.

This hurts many people, but the people who ultimately pay are those who need care. Any of us could be in that position someday.

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It’s important that both federal and state governments do something to help senior-care facilities solve their staffing problems and ensure that enough space and a high level of care are available for those who need it. The best way to do that is by providing better Medicare and Medicaid compensation rates.

The state faces many needs and a tight budget these days, but lawmakers must place solutions to problems in the senior-care industry high on their list of priorities. Government-sponsored health care programs are what basically governs the industry, so the government must take responsibility for making sure the industry meets acceptable standards.