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'Perfect storm' threatens state's elderly population
County-owned Hillcrest Nursing Home is keeping its head above water for now, but a financial tidal wave is on its way.
Nebraska voters’ decision to expand Medicaid, coupled with vows by the governor and like-minded lawmakers to avoid tax increases at all costs mean that the dwindling number of private-pay nursing home residents see their resources drained further.
Once their money is depleted, they may be forced on the Medicaid rolls as well, exacerbating the problem.
As pointed out by Ron Ross of Rural Health Development, the healthcare management company hired to manage Hillcrest, 33 facilities have closed in Nebraska, and they’re currently being paid $34 per resident less by Medicaid than it takes to care for them.
That’s the result of Medicaid rates being reduced 2.65 percent last year, and another 7.17 percent this year. Since about 60 percent of Nebraska nursing home residents are on Medicaid, that’s a big bite out of the annual budget.
To stay afloat, they’re forced to bill private-pay residents upwards of $225 a day, to make up for the $160 a day Medicaid pays for its residents.
While the county did provide a temporary bailout for Hillcrest a few years back, the county-owned facility, for the most part, has been self-supporting over the years, operating on revenue from its residents.
Nursing homes are an important part of many small communities, providing employment and keeping residents closer to their friends and families.
If they are forced to close, those valuable jobs go away and residents are forced to move many miles away from their friends and family.
To educate the public and state senators on the crisis, a live-streaming conference covering all the angles is Tuesday, Dec. 19, at the Lancaster Event Center. Sponsored by RHD, along with Leading Age Nebraska and the Nebraska Health Care Association, the conference will discuss the factors leading up to the current situation and possible solutions. Live streaming can be accessed at nebraskaconversation.com.
We owe it to our elderly residents to make sure they receive the care they need without being forced into poverty.