On Wednesday, the House Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee listened to nursing home administrators explain how they're unable to pay wages that attract and retain employees. Representative Dave Baker (R-Willmar) was shamed by what he heard, leaving us curious how he'll feel when the freshman Republican learns how the situation came to be.
Via the Worthington Globe, Forum Communications political reporter Don Davis writes in Nursing home officials say lack of state funds hurts residents:
Minnesota nursing home workers can earn more money by working at Fleet Farm, Dairy Queen and a sugar beet processing plant than helping the elderly, nursing home administrators across the state complain.
That means, they told a House committee Wednesday, that nursing home residents are not getting care as good as they should. Staff turnover, they said, prevents nursing staff workers from knowing residents well enough to provide the best care. . . .
Glanzer and other administrators, from rural and city nursing homes alike, said the state does not provide enough money to pay adequate wages. The state sets rates nursing homes may charge, and the facilities have little to say about how much they pay workers.
Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, was not happy with what he heard.
“As a freshman legislator, I am embarrassed that we allowed this to happen,” Baker said.
How did the legislature allow this to happen? Bluestem hasn't tracked down the entire answer, but a couple of sources are suggestive that Republicans eager to slash state funding had something to do with creating those low wages and Representative Baker's chagrin.
Here's a chart illustrating nursing facility rate increases and decreases for the last ten years, courtesy of Care Providers Long Term Incentive project:
Of that stagnation in 2011-2012, state representative Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) wrote in a 2011 press release, Republicans Enact Huge Cuts to Children, Seniors, and the Disabled:
Over $50 million in cuts are made to programs that serve children in the GOP budget, including a $20 million cut to Children and Community Services grants that are used by counties to protect children from abuse and neglect. The bill also cuts programs that serve the elderly and disabled by almost $200 million. It cuts nursing home property rate adjustments and dramatically scales back rates for Personal Care Assistance (PCA) by relatives.
The bill also makes massive cuts to nursing homes and hospitals. Nursing homes are cut by $133 million and hospitals are cut by almost $500 million, with many of the deepest cuts coming in the 2014-2015 budget cycle.
“These deep cuts are a prescription for the closure of nursing homes and hospitals, especially in rural areas,” said Huntley. “This is a real job killer across Minnesota.”
Murphy said the bill included a lack of significant reform to adapt to the changing demographics and challenges facing Minnesota’s health care system.
“We didn’t reform, only deformed programs that serve some of the most vulnerable Minnesotans,” said Murphy. “Cutting care for our children and seniors not only harm Minnesotans, it prevents us from addressing the fundamental cost drivers of our health care system. We can and must do better for Minnesota’s future.”
But perhaps the most important and lingering consequence:
• Massive cuts to nursing homes and hospitals: The bill cuts nursing homes by $133 million in FY14-15 and cuts hospitals by almost a half a billion. By repealing rebasing, the process by which nursing home and hospital reimbursement rates are adjusted to inflation and other local economic forces, the bill ensures state payments will not keep up with state medical inflation rates that average about 7% annually.
That bump in 2013? When the DFL won control of the legislature in the 2012 elections, the new majorities were able to soften the cuts in 2013 by increasing nursing home rates by 5% for FY14. An additional 3.2% increase is scheduled for October 1, 2015 (download an Aging Services PDF here that documents the figures). These were the first rate increases for long-term care in five years.
Let's hope Baker understands the need to find revenue to pay for increased funding.
We'll keep looking for more information about how things came to such a state in Minnesota's nursing homes.
Photo: Dave Baker (R-Willmar), an emotional guy quick to feel embarrassment.
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