Editorial Roundup: New nursing home pay raises are a good start

Published 8:50 pm Friday, May 3, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

While many Minnesota nursing homes face another year of financial strain, reduced capacity and the risk of closing, the action of a new state board to raise nursing home worker pay will be a good start to a big problem.

The newly created Nursing Home Workforce Standards Board approved a minimum pay for nursing home workers that would average $23.49 per hour starting in 2027 and would also call for 11 paid holidays.

The board was created by the Democratically-controlled Legislature last year and includes three nursing home worker representatives, three state government representatives and three nursing home industry leaders. The nursing home representatives abstained, according to a report in Minnesota Reformer.

Email newsletter signup

The wages will be finalized after a public comment period and another vote by the board.

Nursing homes have bipartisan support in their struggle to hire workers and increase government funding. Last year, the Minnesota Legislature sent a $300 million emergency infusion to stop nursing homes, many in greater Minnesota, from closing. About 80% of nursing home revenue comes from the state and federal governments in payments based on nursing home costs through Medicaid or other programs.

So the cost increases from the wage increases will be mostly reimbursed by the government, albeit 15 months after nursing homes have incurred the costs.
We’ve long supported higher pay for nursing home workers and the new board is a good way to keep this necessary budget item out of the increasingly divided political environment at the Legislature. Most everyone agrees nursing home workers are not paid commensurate to the critical job they do taking care of our elderly.

Nursing home representatives argue that 15-month lag in payment is difficult to cover, and we agree with them. The Legislature should strive to narrow this time window. The process of allocating billions of dollars to nursing homes requires regular auditing, which is the main reason for the funding delay. But we believe audits can be done in a more timely manner, as they are in many other industries dealing with government funds.

Minnesota is also one of two states that does not allow nursing homes to charge higher rates for private pay customers than government pay customers. That outdated rule that is not fiscally sound in this rapidly changing nursing home environment.

We’re glad to see nursing home workers getting the pay they deserve, but the Legislature should be ready for the large bill that’s going to come due.

Legislators should continue to work for reform and move to a system where the elderly can age in their own homes, thereby reducing huge nursing home obligations in the future.

— Mankato Free Press, May 1