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Nursing home advocacy groups protest industry's exemption request

The outcry following a New York Times story in May about the nursing home industry trying to get an exemption from the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employers offer their employees health insurance continued last week when a number of nursing home advocacy groups sent a letter of protest to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"We strongly believe that if the HHS grants this request it may inadvertently yield disastrous consequences for residents," the letter from Families for Better Care read. Families for Better Care, a citizen advocacy group based in Tallahassee, Fla. sent the letter on behalf of 24 organizations, including the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, the Coalition for Quality Care, Elder Care Rights Alliance and several Voices for Quality Care state affiliates.

The letter asks HHS to deny the industry's request for an exemption. "The industry's request for this exemption is an outrage and an affront to the millions of residents for whom they are entrusted to care for," said the group's executive director, Brian Lee, in a statement about the letter. "This is a cruel oxymoron that a health care industry sector (which is largely government-funded) would seek to deny their employees basic health care coverage."

[See also: Analysis: Job quality endangers long-term care industry.]

The nursing home industry is alarmed at how much it will cost to provide health insurance for its employees and says that the problem lies with the low reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid.

In a press release about the letter to HHS, Lee countered, "This request comes at a time when the nursing home industry continues to reap recession-defying record profits, while enjoying strong earnings and steady growth. This is another example of nursing home 'big business' trumping resident and caregiver safety in lieu of high investment returns for shareholders."

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