Veto of some money to help Nebraska nursing homes sparks fear of more closures

'This funding is literally an elder Nebraskan's home'

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – After Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed a portion of the money that would go to raising provider rates at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, many are wondering how many more facilities will close.

State Sen. John Stinner, the chairman of the Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that he was “not only disappointed, but pretty angry, frankly.”

He said lawmakers have “spent a lot of time” on the issue.

Of the $51.8 million cut, about half was intended to boost provider rates for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  The rest included increases for providers of child welfare and behavioral health services.

“It’s important that we strike the appropriate balance between calibrating government spending and returning excess revenue back to the people,” Ricketts wrote to state senators on Monday.  “That is how we responsibly steward taxpayer money.  With that in mind, I’ve chosen to line-item veto certain spending items that will allow tax relief to succeed.”

He said that the vetoes would reduce the growth of state spending next fiscal year from 5.9% to 4.8% and that there would still be enough money for 5% provider rate increases.

But the veto has many concerned that more seniors may have to pack up and move out.

“This funding is literally an elder Nebraskan’s home,” said Jalene Carpenter, president and CEO of the Nebraska Health Care Association. “Without this funding, you are going to continue to see more facilities close and more elder Nebraskans displaced from their communities.”

A provider rate is what the state pays facilities for the Medicaid patients who live there.

“Over 55% of residents in nursing homes are on Medicaid, so this is really important funding,” Carpenter said.

As some facilities close their doors, other locations are trying to absorb those who are displaced, but beds are not always available.

“If we continue this cycle of seeing closures, you are going to see people without the ability to find care, not only where they need it, but just access, period,” Carpenter said.

Senators will have a chance to override the governor’s veto but will need at least 30 votes to do so.

Stinner believes that the vote may take place Thursday.

He said the committee voted unanimously to advance the override on Tuesday.

“We will be ready to take that up when the speaker schedules it,” he said.

There are just 7 days left in this legislative session.

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