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Nursing homes getting funding boost from state

Friday, June 18, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri nursing homes are set to receive an influx of money under legislation Gov. Bob Holden plans to sign into law today. And nursing home officials say that could translate into better amenities for patients and improved pay for employees.

The legislation ratchets up the state's reimbursement rate for the roughly 545 nursing homes caring for patients covered by the government-run Medicaid health-care program for the poor, elderly and disabled.

Nursing homes, for several years, have claimed the state's current payments fall far short of their actual cost of providing care.

"This bill is extremely important to patient care in nursing homes," said Earl Carlson, executive director of the Missouri Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes.

Holden planned a private bill signing ceremony during a board of directors meeting at the Jefferson City headquarters of the nursing home group. Carlson said the governor's office wanted to keep the ceremony closed to the media and public.

Holden did not list the ceremony on his public bill signing schedule, and a spokeswoman for Holden did not immediately return telephone messages Thursday.

This year, Missouri nursing homes received about $446 million in state and federal funds, according to the state Division of Medical Services.

Carlson said that includes an average state payment of a little more than $97 per Medicaid patient per day -- nearly $22 short of covering nursing homes' full costs.

Under the bill, the state's reimbursement rate would be recalculated each of the next three years, eventually bringing the rate close to actual costs. That amounts to a $16 million increase in state spending during the fiscal year starting July 1, according to legislative estimates.

By 2007, the state spending increase could reach $65 million. Because state appropriations attract federal Medicaid funds, total state-federal reimbursements to Missouri nursing homes could rise by $167 million by 2007.

Sister Mary Chrisman, a nurse and administrative assistant at the Roman Catholic-run LeVerna Village Nursing Home in Savannah, said employees there had gone three years without a raise, but would get one now. The boost in state funding also could lead to more modern bathtubs, curtains, wallpaper and new paint in some rooms, Chrisman said.

LeVerna Village was one of the plaintiffs in an unsuccessful 2002 lawsuit that challenged the governor's constitutional authority to withhold nearly $21 million in nursing home grants because of declining state revenues.

Cathy Lloyd-Henson said she would use this year's increased Medicaid subsidies to provide pay raises to most of her 260 employees spread out over three nursing homes she owns in Hermann and Owensville.

Tight budgets in recent years led Lloyd-Henson to reduce the percentage of employee health insurance premiums that Frene Valley nursing homes covers from 100 percent to 20 percent. She said the state funding increase should allow her to again improve employee health care plans.

The nursing homes have been owned by Lloyd-Henson's family since 1954.

"I honestly for a while thought I'm not going to be able to do this, I'm not going to be able to operate this because of the funding," she said. The legislation "allows me to keep going."

About 70 percent of all patients in Missouri nursing homes are covered by Medicaid, Carlson said.

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Nursing home bill is SB1123.

On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us

Governor: http://www.gov.state.mo.us

Nursing homes: http://www.mohealthcare.com


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