JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Nursing home administrators are eagerly awaiting Gov. Mike Parson's approval of the Missouri budget, which proposes boosting Medicaid funding for those who require highly specialized 24-hour nursing home services.
The increase would help offset the 3.5 percent cut to nursing home care that took effect last July. Former Gov. Eric Greitens' budget actions at the time resulted in the deepest cuts to services provided to seniors, veterans and people with disabilities since the inception of the Medicaid program.
State general revenues pay an average of $15.26 per person per day for care, which represents a $25 per person per day shortfall.
"We have worked really hard with our local legislators on this, and we're really hopeful the governor passes the budget," said Paul Ewert, CEO of Beth Haven in Hannibal. "Caring for patients is always our No. 1 priority, so this past year we've had to become really careful about our expenses. We didn't fill open positions if we didn't absolutely have to, and we were unable to give our employees a raise this year. The cuts meant a great deal to how we operated."
Tim Schrage, administrator of the Knox County Nursing Home District in Edina, agreed.
"All nursing homes have challenges, and lower occupancy is one of those challenges," he said. "Some residents are private-pay, and some rely on Medicaid. So, a lower occupancy number means a smaller population of patients who rely on Medicaid, and that means smaller revenue."
Schrage said that when the cuts last year took place, the nursing home had to cut expenses and dig into its reserves. About $40,000 in revenue from reimbursements was lost.
"Losing that amount hurt," he said. "If the budget is passed with this boost in funding, it would replenish what was taken away."
Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, is the sponsor of the budget bill regarding nursing homes. He has said in the past to various media outlets that he fears some nursing homes could close if Medicaid reimbursement rates aren't increased. His bill also calls for those rates to be recalculated each year to account for rising health care costs.
The Missouri Health Care Association estimateed that there are 24,000 medically vulnerable Missourians who depend on Medicaid to help pay for their care.