Editorial: Fund providers of elder care

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, April 6, 2010

When considering cuts in state funding, one of the items on the chopping block this year is support for nursing homes. This comes at a time with the field of elder care already loses nurses to other fields because of wages. With baby-boomers hitting retirement and the expected increase in nursing home needs, cutting state support for nursing homes is a bad idea.

Moreover, cuts would burden the people who pay for the care and would result in lost jobs during a rough economy. There are more than 112,000 employees in Minnesota in the long-term care field.

The Long-Term Care Imperative, which represents the state’s two long-term care provider associations, says the state providers — nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and related places — are serving more seniors than ever, yet the state’s support keep getting cut despite the cost of living going up. This forces the providers to do more with less. It might sound fine in some fields, but long-term care providers already operate in a highly regulated environment, most notably rate equalization.

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Rate equalization — found only in North Dakota and Minnesota — mandates that long-term care residents, regardless of income or assets, are required to pay only what Medicaid pays for nursing home care. Medicaid, according to the Long-Term Care Imperative, “underpays $20 a day per resident than the cost of providing care.” The organization says North Dakota keeps its rates closer to costs, but Minnesota has rate equalization yet fails to reimburse anywhere near the costs. This makes Minnesota unlike any other state. Further, rate equalization is sort of a disincentive for people to plan ahead for long-term-care needs.

Rate equalization probably sounded like a good idea on paper years ago, but without the proper state reimbursements, then it makes difficult situation for nursing homes and their residents.

It’s a tight year. We realize that. But don’t fix the state budget on the backs of our seniors and elder-care providers.