Nursing homes sue governor

Friday, June 14, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A group of nursing homes has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Bob Holden's decision to cut about $20.7 million in nursing home grants to help balance the state's budget.

The lawsuit asks a Cole County circuit judge to issue an injunction against the budget cut before the June 30 end of the fiscal year and order that the money be released to nursing homes.

"This is an abrupt stopping of funding that nursing homes had expected and budgeted for," Earl E. Carlson, executive director of the Missouri Health Care Association, said Thursday.

"The state of Missouri has some responsibilities, but nursing facilities have some responsibilities to care for human people, and we need adequate funding to do that," Carlson added.

Holden said he was sticking by his decision, although he regretted having to make the cut. He blamed the cut on House Republicans, who refused to back his plan to use the state's Rainy Day Fund to cover the budget shortfall.

Still, "we think we're within our legal rights to do the action we did," Holden said.

Holden announced the nursing home withholding May 10 as part of $230 million in budget-balancing cuts. Also hard hit were state colleges and universities.

The lawsuit filed late Wednesday by the Missouri Health Care Association is the first challenging Holden's power to withhold money appropriated by legislators.

It calls the withholding an unlawful impoundment that violates the budget appropriation and state Medicaid rules describing how the money was to be distributed.

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