Alaska Congressional Delegation Introduce Bill to Make Cost-Of-Living Adjustment For Alaska, Hawaii Nursing Facilities

The Alaska Congressional Delegation introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will provide for fair Medicare payments for nursing facilities in Alaska and Hawaii. The bill will authorize a cost-of-living adjustment at skilled nursing facilities in those states to take into account the higher costs of delivering care. The Equitable Payments for Nursing Facilities Act of 2020 is led by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in the U.S. Senate. Representatives Don Young (R-AK), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-02), and Edward Case (D-HI-01) co-lead companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

While hospitals and certain other health care facilities in Alaska and Hawaii receive a cost-of-living adjustment under Medicare to account for higher non-wage costs, such as rent and utilities, than in other states, nursing facilities do not, making it more difficult for these critical nursing facilities to operate.

“With our remote geography, it’s no secret the cost of living in Alaska and Hawaii far surpasses many states in the continental U.S. This includes everything from fuel, groceries, transportation, energy costs, and particularly health care,” said Senator Murkowski. “This bill makes a simple, but necessary change to ensure cost of living adjustments are taken into account for skilled nursing facilities, in both states, just as we currently provide for hospitals. Skilled nursing facilities provide essential care for many elderly and vulnerable Alaskans, providing the best care possible while allowing these patients to stay in the state, close to their families and their homes. I’m proud to support efforts to make sure Medicare payments account for the unique costs of delivering services in Alaska, and to continue to support access to skilled nursing care within our state.”

“As the largest state in the country with some of the most unique geography, Alaska’s health care is among the most expensive and challenging to provide,” said Senator Sullivan. “Our skilled nursing facilities do excellent work taking care of our seniors and it’s vital to ensure that they can afford to continue to do so. This cost of living adjustment will bolster funding for our nursing homes so they are able to provide the best care possible for Alaskans who have given so much to our state.”

“Skilled nursing facilities are a critical component of our healthcare system, and the providers pour their hearts into caring for patients,” said Congressman Young. “Unfortunately, due to the high cost of living in Alaska and Hawaii, these facilities face increased operational difficulties. Workforce challenges further threaten the availability of care for those who need it, making this an urgent priority. I am proud to help introduce the Equitable Payments for Nursing Facilities Act to help ensure that our skilled nursing facilities have the support needed to continue delivering high-quality care.”

 “Alaska and Hawaii are geographically unique compared to the rest of the U.S., so it is no surprise that our respective health care systems have access to care challenges that are incomprehensible elsewhere. Modifying Medicare reimbursement for skilled nursing facilities to reflect cost-of-living adjustments is a simple, necessary step to support access to high-quality care in our states.  We thank Alaska's Congressional Delegation for its partnership and leadership in bringing payment equity to those who care for our elderly and most vulnerable,” said Jared Kosin, President/CEO of Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.

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