The national RV tour, "Driving for Quality Care" rolled into Pueblo Thursday. It's the only stop the 60-city tour will make in Colorado as it heads towards its final destination in California later this year.
The tour is supposed to raise awareness and public support for funding of Medicare and Medicaid, something that has become a hot topic over the last few years. Event attendees are given an opportunity to sign a nationwide petition asking President Obama and state governors to "make adequate funding of Medicaid and Medicare a top priority."
Thursday, the rally was held at the West Wind Campus of Care. It is a rehabilitation center that works with seniors to get them back on their feet and able to care for themselves. Mildred Toth is one of those seniors.
At the age of 87, Toth still wants to be independent and live in her own home. The same home she raised two children, grand and great grand children in. A few weeks ago, Toth fell and injured her hip. Her daughter knew she didn't have the resources or the capability of caring for her mother during the recovery, so she checked her into West Wind.
Medicare is paying for Toth's stay at the rehabilitation center. Toth's daughter, Pat, says because she is the primary and only caregiver for her mother she would have been forced into early retirement to care for her mother if Medicare wasn't available. Pat explains how a domino effect would then start as her ability to care for herself would be passed on to her children.
Because of this, both of the women are concerned about the future of Medicare and Medicaid.
Recently, Congress approved $159 million in emergency funds to be sent to Colorado for Medicaid. It's money the legislature was banking on and had already budgeted for.
Thursday, several speakers pleaded with the state to not continue to cut medicare and medicaid from nursing homes. They say, jobs and the quality of care for seniors depends on it. According to Bob Jones, a board member of the Colorado Health Care Association, rehabilitation centers like West Wind could see $15,000 to $20,000 per month in decreased revenue next year if the state once again cuts benefit reimbursements.
That would translate into seven full time positions for a center the size of West Wind. "That would be a catastrophe," said Toth. A loss of that many staff members would strain many facilities ability to provide quality care. It's something they don't want to talk about, but it's definitely on their mind as they have to plan for the worst.
With more cuts looming at the state level, patients and their families are concerned about what will happen as more and more benefits are stripped away. Meanwhile, at the federal level, a new piece of legislation has been introduced that is designed to help nursing and rehab centers like West Wind, as well as their patients.
The legislation is H.R. 5457, the Nursing Home Patient & Medicaid Assistance Act of 2010. According to Jones, it would assist long term and rehabilitation centers by providing supplemental Medicaid payments for specific nursing facilities.