Guest opinion: State shifts Medicaid costs to private patients

2013-06-06T00:05:00Z Guest opinion: State shifts Medicaid costs to private patientsBy THOMAS KLOTZ The Billings Gazette
June 06, 2013 12:05 am  • 

We need to see support by state senators and representatives in overriding Gov. Steve Bullock’s veto of House Bill 12. The bill was supported by 75 percent of the entire Legislature. Now Gov. Bullock is asking Democratic legislators to show their loyalty to him by voting against this legislation.

This is politics at the expense of our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and adds to the burdens that already exist at our health care facilities across Montana. Providers haven’t had an increase since 2009. Why do Govs. Schweitzer and Bullock fight for 5 percent increases for state workers but think 2 percent a year increase for our health care facility’s operating cost is more than enough for those who need our care?

This bill helps pay for increased operational costs, such as wages, benefits, utilities, daily maintenance, replacement and updating of expensive medical equipment, liability insurance and worker's compensation to name a few.

Those who pay for their own nursing home care in Montana also pay the price of poor public policy that allows the state to pay less than the cost of service. Private pay residents are paying more to make up for what the state doesn’t pay. The difference today is about $35 a day on average, while it was only about $20 per day in 2011. This increase is due to the need to offset the lack of reimbursement that is received from Medicaid to pay for the cost of our seniors in long term care. So when the governors have chosen not to provide funding appropriated by the Legislature for nursing homes, as both Govs. Bullock and Schweitzer have done, the cost to those paying for their own care goes up. This cost shifting by itself does not completely pay for the cost of care for those living in long term care facilities and nursing homes take other steps to reduce costs.

Health care facilities have done a good job handling the funds approved by the Legislature. We were looking to remodel parts of our nursing home that would have greatly enhanced the environment for the residents and their families, until Gov. Schweitzer took funding from our program. How are health care facilities going to improve when funding is denied?

It is important that both Democratic and Republican legislators vote to override Gov. Bullock’s veto. Make your vote still count for those whose efforts we appreciate every day, those who care for our seniors. Put people ahead of politics.

Thomas Klotz of Glasgow is a former nursing home administrator with 34 years of experience in long-term care.

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