In Thursday's New Ulm Journal article Dahms highlights GOP Rural Caucus priorities, a statement by Senator Gary Dahms illustrates the limits of the Republicans' one-size-fits-all catchphrase.
It doesn't fit all sizes and situations. Take the state formula for nursing home funding.
Journal staffer Clay Schuldt reports:
The 2014 session was successful in campaigning for a 5 percent increase to reimbursement rates for the disabled. This session is focusing on a long-term care bill for nursing homes and elderly care. A Senate bill would modify the nursing facility reimbursement system.
"The current funding is based on a structure developed in the 1990s," said Dahms. "It's a one-size-fits-all rate structure."
As a matter of fact, the formula isn't one-size-fits-all. When that structure was developed in the 1990s, the state divided into three funding categories: metro, rural and "deep rural," with reimbursement declining with each zone.
Bluestem has to wonder how rural legislators agreed to that formula. In the 1990s, more lawmakers were allocated to Greater Minnesota before demographic changes and redistricting shifted power to the Metro. Go figure.
The new legislation being pushed by the rural GOP caucus would create reimbursement criteria based on a facility's incurred expenses. If the long-term care bill were to be passed under its full language, it would amount to $200 million in funding and significantly increase the compensation for nursing home staffs.
"We have to understand the severe situation in our rural nursing homes," said Dahms.
Many nursing homes are being forced to turn away clients due to a lack of staffing. Rural Minnesota in particular is struggling to maintain adequate staffing at current reimbursement rates and with the baby boomers now beginning to move into nursing homes the need for these facilities will only increase The state cannot afford to lose any long-term care homes at this time, Dahms said.
As we noted, it's not a one-size-fits-all formula that's creating the problem. Nor, as we have discovered, is the solution being developed and advanced in both chambers of the legislator a creation of "the rural GOP caucus."
Rather, it's a bipartisan solution.
Rochester's slight different story
Dahms' description of the bill to reform nursing home funding contrasts sharply with that reported by Heather Carlson in the Rochester Post Bulletin, Bill would increase funding for local nursing homes:
. . . A proposal moving in both the House and Senate would revamp the way the state pays nursing homes. House author Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, said since 1993, the state has set the reimbursement rates for nursing home facilities. But over the years, those rates have failed to keep up with inflation. Schomacker's bill would base reimbursement rates on expense reports filed with the state. He said it's critical state lawmakers act quickly to help struggling nursing homes. Five years ago, he said the state's nursing homes had a total profit of more than $30 million. That has since plummeted to $4 million in profit for the roughly 350 facilities in the state.
"There's been a dramatic shift in just how much funding is available in the system, and I think we're at a really big turning point if we can't get going in a different direction," he said.
Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate. . . .
It remains to be seen whether Schomacker's $200 million proposal can win the support necessary to pass this legislative session. In the meantime, several lawmakers — including Liebling — are introducing bills to help increase funding for nursing homes in their districts. Liebling told her colleagues it's time to pass a statewide solution.
She added, "I am really hoping it's not going to be about my district or your district. It's going to be about all of us."
The legislation eliminates the "deep rural" category and splits the state into two zones (moving from three sizes to two).
We've put the Senate author in bold because Senator Lourey is so not part of the GOP Rural Caucus.
Moreover, when we look at the status HF316, we see a host of co-authors from both parties, ranging from Erin Murphy (DFL-St.Paul) to arch-conservative Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe). As is the case under Minnesota State rules, Lourey's companion bill has far fewer co-authors, but SenatorJulie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) joins four rural Democrats: Kent Eken of Twin Valley; Lyle Koenen of Clara City; and, Leroy Stumpf of Plummer.
Senator Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) chairs the Senate Finance - Health and Human Services Budget Division Committee, so it's not as if he's some random woodtick the Republicans sweet talked into sponsoring a bill.
Only Dahms knows how that grouping can be described as the GOP Rural Caucus, but we'd hope that the New Ulm Journal might in the future look up the bills and check things out, rather than take Dahms' word for these things.
Carlson did--and a much different story emerges beyond the catchphrase of the hour.
Photo: Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls).
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