In Upson County, more than 200 people are currently receiving care in three area nursing homes - and officials from all three say Medicaid cuts already made and others under consideration by the General Assembly could be devastating.
The plan before lawmakers would reduce reimbursements to nursing homes by 10 percent or more.
Nursing homes in Thomaston have already felt some cuts. One area nursing home suffered a rate decline of $14 a day and another $12 per day.
"We will have to cut our activity programs for the residents, pay raises for employees and there is no telling what else this will do to this facility," said a spokesperson for one of the area nursing homes.
"The best way to help us is for concerned citizens to write a letter to our legislature or the governor."
The administrator of Providence Health Care, Kay Barham, in a letter to the editor recently said, "We are looking at all available options including layoffs, reducing employee benefits, freezing pay increases, purchasing less expensive supplies and delaying maintenance. Unfortunately few expenses in a nursing home are optional."
Another spokesperson said, "The demands of this industry are enormous. The most highly regulated business is getting hit with massive cuts which cannot be absorbed without making changes. Raises are on hold for 90 days, benefits are being reduced, etc. You have to love what you do to stay in it. The Governor has also proposed rate reductions which will affect revenue in excess of $373,302. We need all family members to write their legislators to urge them not to cut Medicaid funding for nursing homes. Nursing homes need increases not decreases."
President of the Nursing Home Association, Fred Watson said, "This is a looming crisis for nursing homes folks. They are the most vulnerable people and they should suffer cuts last, not first. This is a serious problem and I don't think the new government knew what an impact this would make. We have been asked to cut back before but never like this."
There is another proposal that will impact all Medicaid providers that is to go in affect July 1, 2003. Watson said the cut in July will be much greater than the first cut.
"The only solution there is the federal matching dollars program, but it it is a preliminary stage and will take time, but it is the only solution."
Statewide losses will be approximately $189 million after the July cuts, according to Watson.