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Schatz, Murkowski, Hirono, Sullivan Introduce New Bill To Ensure Fair Medicare Payments, Make Cost-Of-Living Adjustment For Hawai‘i, Alaska Nursing Homes

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today introduced new legislation that will provide for fair Medicare payments for nursing facilities in Hawai‘i and Alaska. The bipartisan 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.

“Nursing homes are on the front lines of this pandemic and need all the support they can get to care for our most vulnerable residents,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill fixes the Medicare reimbursement rates so that Hawai‘i nursing homes get their fair share of federal dollars and have the resources to continue to provide high quality care."

“With our remote geography, it’s no secret the cost of living in Alaska and Hawai‘i 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 coronavirus pandemic continues, it is vital that we protect Americans living in nursing homes, which have been particularly hard-hit by the virus. That means making the Medicare reimbursement rate fair,” Senator Hirono said. “Medicare rightly recognizes the unique challenges of providing care in Hawai‘i and Alaska, and already provides a cost-of-living adjustment for hospitals in our states. It is time we extend fair payments to nursing homes so they can continue to deliver quality care during this challenging time.”

“As the largest state in the country, with some of the most unique geography, Alaska’s healthcare is among the most expensive and the most challenging to provide,” said Senator Sullivan. “Our nursing homes 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.”

While hospitals and certain other health care facilities in Hawai‘i and Alaska 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 homes to operate.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawai‘i), Don Young (R-Alaska), and Ed Case (D-Hawai‘i).