Guinn increases state's Medicaid long term care contribution

Saying a growing number of Nevada nursing homes are in financial trouble, Gov. Kenny Guinn on Tuesday ordered an $8.2 million increase in the state's contribution to Medicaid long term care.

Matched by federal Medicaid money which will automatically increase the same amount, that means an infusion of $16.36 million into the program -funding a 7.64 percent increase in what those homes get from Medicaid.

With the state and federal shares combined, that will raise their payment for a skilled nursing bed from $103 to $110 a day.

Guinn said he was worried that without an increase, Nevada might lose some of its 4,904 long-term care beds. He said many of those homes are losing money on Medicaid patients now and several of them - accounting for a third of the beds in the state - are in bankruptcy proceedings.

"I felt it was important to act right away before a nursing home crisis developed that could have impacted hundreds of elderly and disabled Nevadans in our state," he said.

In Nevada, 60 percent of those beds - just under 3,000 - are occupied by Medicaid recipients.

Chuck Perry, interim director of the Nevada Health Care Association, said if finances continue to worsen for some of those nursing homes, it could mean closures - resulting in fewer beds for those who need them.

To help fix their cashflow problem, Guinn ordered the payments made retroactively. The 37 Medicaid qualified homes in the state will get the increase for medicaid services they provided from the start of last fiscal year through the end of this fiscal year.

He and Human Resources Director Charlotte Crawford said they expect to get the necessary money from the existing budget because growth in the number of Medicaid long term care patients has been slower than projected during the 1999 Legislature.

"We've got some savings in our account," said Guinn.

If projections hold, Crawford said there could be up to $33 million in that account to cover the cost by the end of this fiscal year.

Tammy Supchak, president of the Nevada Health Care Association, said the industry badly needs the increase and that the money should "significantly affect the ability of Nevada's nursing homes to provide the high level quality of care the citizens of our state deserve."

"It'll keep us open," said Jim Toomey, who operates Eljen, a long-term care center in Las Vegas. "This is very critical."

Guinn said he will address the question of future increases under the formula funding Medicaid long term care during the 2001 Legislature to try make sure the industry doesn't end up in dire straights again.


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