AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Nursing home operators were hoping for additional financial help from the Governor and Legislature on Thursday. Governor LePage had submitted a last minute bill to take $5 million from public health programs paid for by the state's annual tobacco settlement income, and use the money to increase funding for nursing homes. But Democrats in the legislature wanted to preserve the tobacco settlement funding and found another source of money for a small nursing home increase.
Rep. Peggy Rotundo says members of the Appropriations Committee had agreed on a plan when leaders of both parties told them to stop work and kill the bill, because the Governor had threatened to veto it. The final result: no added funding, beyond what had previously been passed.
Nursing home operators, such as Carl Chadwick at Knox Center in Rockland, say the state doesn't reimburse them enough for Medicaid (Maine Care) patients – who make up an average of 70% of all patients in the homes. They say the average reimbursement of $180 a day doesn't even cover the cost of care.
The Maine Health Care Association, which represents 101 of the 107 nursing homes in the state, says total reimbursement falls short by about $30 million per year. The Legislature did pass a law to provide an additional $4 million, which will bring in another eight million in federal Medicaid money.
But the nursing homes were hoping the last-minute bill from the Governor could bring extra help. The Governor's proposal was to take $5 million from public health programs paid for by the annual tobacco settlement payment to the state, and use that to increase state and federal money for nursing homes.
But Democrats in the Legislature wanted to protect those programs and take a smaller amount from another source. Republicans came up with their own plan –and finally Legislative leaders in both parties called a halt, after the Governor said he would veto both those plans.
Nursing home operators say the financial crisis still exists, and that if the reimbursement system isn't changed, some homes with particularly high Maine Care patient numbers could be at risk of closing. At the same time, they say the needed cost shifting puts more burden on private-pay patients, who are forced to subsidize the Maine Care shortfall. At Knox Center, Chadwick says that while Maine Care pays about $186/day, private-pay patients end up paying about $307/day.
The Maine Health Care Association says Maine has 107 nursing homes, with approximately 6,300 patients.