(AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)

The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care (AQNHC), Washington, a group that represents other nursing home groups, is welcoming an expression of support from the Congressional Task Force on Seniors – a panel chaired by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill, and Doris Matsui, D-Calif.

The task force is trying to get the “Super Committee” – the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – to preserve as much funding as possible for Medicare and Medicaid programs that help seniors.

The Super Committee is supposed to come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction proposals by Thanksgiving, and programs aimed at seniors seem to be somewhere near the heart of the area the budget cutters are attacking.

Schakowsky and Matsui say hurting senior program funding would be a mistake.

“Median senior household income is less than $22,000, and only 1% have incomes over $250,000,” the lawmakers write in the letter. “It is wrong to ask seniors and other lower-income and middle-income families to sacrifice without requiring millionaires and billionaires, oil companies and corporate outsources to pay their fair share.”

From 2002, Medicare per capita spending increased an average of just 4.6% per year, compared with an average of 6.7% for private insurance, the lawmakers say.

Any program savings “should be used primarily to provide the adequate provider payments needed to ensure access,” the lawmakers add.

Schakowsky and Matsui cite increasing Medicare premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing amounts as an approach the Super Committee should not take.

AQNHC President Alan Rosenbloom says it is good to see the seniors task force fighting shortsighted budget-cutting proposals.

Nursing homes employ millions and have very low profit margins, Rosenbloom says.

Nursing home workers and patients are especially vulnerable to the Medicare and Medicaid changes that have been made in recent months and any changes that might be coming in the future.

Today, “premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing under Medicare are already high, and there is no limit on annual out-of-pocket costs,” Rosenbloom says. “As a result, seniors pay three times the amount of out-of-pocket costs as the non-elderly.”

In some cases, cuts could reduce hospitals’ ability to get patients out of the hospital and nursing homes’ ability to get patients home, Rosenbloom says.