Nursing homes feel betrayed

Many nursing homes are having trouble paying their bills and making payroll.
Many nursing homes are having trouble paying their bills and making payroll.

Nursing homes have cause to be frustrated with Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature. Furious, in fact.

The homes agreed last legislative session to a 150 percent increase in provider taxes as a way to increase the federal Medicaid match and boost their reimbursement payments. But only a couple of days after Brownback signed legislation authorizing the tax, he cut Medicaid reimbursements to these providers by 4.47 percent.

They felt double-crossed.

The providers already were struggling because of the state’s huge backlog in processing Medicaid applications. That has resulted in homes having to wait months to get paid.

Because of these delays, many homes are having trouble paying their bills and making payroll, said Debra Zehr, president and CEO of LeadingAge Kansas, an association of nonprofit aging service providers. Four care homes have closed in the past 12 months, largely because of this mess, she said.

“It has gotten to a crisis stage,” she said.

The backlog also harms low-income seniors. Because some of the nursing homes are owed so much funding already from the state, they can’t afford to admit new residents who are caught in the application backlog.

“Real people, real communities are getting hurt,” Zehr said.

LeadingAge wrote the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in July to complain about the reimbursement cut. It urged CMS to “immediately engage with the state of Kansas regarding compliance with federal Medicaid requirements.”

It has yet to hear back. But the providers did receive strong support from state lawmakers at a hearing last month of a Medicaid oversight committee.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, called the cuts to nursing homes and other Medicaid providers “devastating.” He has vowed to reverse the cuts next session.

Brownback also proposed reversing the cuts. To do that, he wants to increase the provider tax on hospitals, but the Kansas Hospital Association objects, saying higher taxes would exacerbate the problems health care providers are facing.

And after what happened to nursing homes, who could blame hospitals if they don’t trust Brownback and the state?

Linda MowBray, representing the Kansas Health Care Association and Kansas Center for Assisted Living, said at the oversight hearing that providers had tried to be good partners with the state and its private insurance companies.

“We trusted the state had the best interest of Kansas elders, and those that provide care for them, at heart,” she said. “We have been betrayed.”

No wonder they are so upset.