Nebraska long-term care homes still at risk of closure, plead for more Medicaid money
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Many Nebraska long-term care facilities are still fighting to keep their doors open.
With insufficient reimbursement rates for Medicaid and no change in the governor’s proposed budget, experts say there is still risk of closure.
Sixty percent of nursing home residents rely on Medicaid to pay for their care, according to the Nebraska Health Care Association.
Since 2015, 79 facilities – both nursing homes and assisted living facilities – have closed in Nebraska, for a loss of more than 3,000 beds.
Eleven of those closures took place in 2022, with most in rural communities.
Experts say the problem is that Nebraskans are in need of expensive care but have run out of resources, something Medicaid should be able to help with.
Not only are families affected by closures, but the local economy feels it, too.
“When we see the cost of goods continuing to increase, like food and medical supplies, those have all increased over the last year,” said Jalene Carpenter, president and CEO of Nebraska Health Care Association. “Making sure that we are investing in our facilities to ensure they can attract and retain team members and cover their cost of their goods is incredibly important.”
The Nebraska Health Care Association says there’s been a history of inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates in comparison to the cost of providing care.
Last year, nursing home rates were increased by about 20% and assisted living facilities by approximately 2% for the 2023 fiscal year.
Gov. Jim Pillen has kept those rates the same in his budget, so some have had to shift their plans.
“Not providing any additional funding is concerning considering what is happening with wages and inflation,” Carpenter said. “The thought that you wouldn’t allocate any additional dollars seems, like I said, concerning.”
State Sen. Myron Dorn, who represents Gage County, has introduced two bills, LB 129 and LB 131, to increase Medicaid funding within the facilities that rely on it.
“The need is there,” Dorn said. “They have the workforce needs. They have staffing shortages. We had 15 of them close in the last two or three years; we’re going to have more.”
The governor’s budget proposal includes $17.5 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding over the next two years to help nursing homes enhance employment and recruitment.
Dorn says he’s working closely with leaders of the industry to get a better picture of how much federal rates will increase, but he says it will not be enough.