Flat Medicaid rates concern Pennsylvania nursing homes | TribLIVE.com
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Nicole C. Brambila

A group that represents about 500 nursing home operators across Pennsylvania expressed concerns about Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget for next fiscal year, saying flat funding threatens the state’s rapidly aging population.

The Medicaid reimbursement rate for Pennsylvania nursing home residents has increased less than $9 a day since July 1, 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. Wolf’s proposed budget does not include a rate increase.

“It gets to a point where, after years of being asked to do more with less, you simply can’t do more. We are at a breaking point,” said association Chairman Sean Buckman, who is president and CEO of Carbondale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Lackawanna County.

Association spokesman Eric Kiehl said reimbursements haven’t kept pace with expenses.

Over the past decade, the reimbursement rate has risen 4.2 percent. Wolf increased the reimbursement last fiscal year by 1 percent, or 99 cents per resident, per day.

Costs in that time have gone up about 7.3 percent, from $207.22 to $249.96 per resident, per day, according to the association.

“The cost of care is rising, as are the costs for everything from labor to drugs and medical supplies to food and utilities,” Buckman said.

About two-thirds of nursing home patients receive care through Medicaid, the federal safety net for the poor and elderly, which reimburses nursing homes at rates lower than Medicare or private insurance.

The quality of nursing home care has become a growing concern as Pennsylvanians get older and more are expected to need these services.

Released last month, Wolf’s proposed $34.1 billion general fund budget represents a 6.8 percent increase over this fiscal year’s actual budget of $31.9 billion.

The Medicaid reimbursement is $198.97, or just $8.12 cents more per patient, per day than a decade ago.

“Gov. Wolf is committed to continuing to improve health care quality and access across the board,” J.J. Abbott, the governor’s spokesman, said in an email to the Tribune-Review.

That includes in-home services, which run significantly cheaper than institutional care, Abbott said.

Abbott said the governor “remains open to input on areas where there could be need to address rates due to higher costs in the health care system but believes the conversation is more complicated than just giving more taxpayer funding to privately operated nursing homes.”

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