State leaders are currently proposing budget cuts across all state agencies, which could result in a significant loss of Medicaid funding for long-term care providers. Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and Speaker of the House Joe Straus requested that all state agencies make 5 percent budget cuts given the fact that revenues have fallen substantially in the face of the 2009 national recession.
In response, HHSC submitted its proposal of budget reduction options, which included a 2 percent Medicaid provider rate reduction for nursing facilities, hospice, and ICF-MR’s, effective September 1, 2010. According to HHSC Executive Commissioner Thomas Suehs, this potential rate reduction was “ the only way to achieve the full five percent savings target for health and human services and avoid deep reductions in existing programs and services”.
Given the proposed budget cuts, it is imperative that long-term care providers protect their interests, and the upcoming 2010 elections for the 82nd legislative session provides a unique opportunity for providers. Legislators are always interested in the concerns of their constituents. Meeting and interacting face-to-race with these policymakers allows long-term care providers to relay the issues they are facing amidst these budget cuts. The Texas Legislature website provides a useful search tool allowing providers to determine the specific legislators that represent them in their districts.
However, while meeting with policymakers is an important step for long-term care providers to advocate for their interests, it is only the first step. For instance, the Texas Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (TAHSA) is an excellent resource for providers interested in interacting with policymakers. Its Advocacy Division focuses on providing state and federal policymakers with information on the issues affecting Texas nonprofit providers. TAHSA is also currently rewarding providers who participate in certain advocacy activities through its TAHSA Advocacy Star Program. By participating in this program, providers will learn effective ways to advocate for legislation that promotes their interests while also being recognized by TAHSA.