Governor Ignores Aging Population in PA, Proposed Budget Again Flat Funds Nursing Homes
Medicaid funding desperately needed to support state’s sickest and frailest
HARRISBURG — R. Sean Buckman, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) Board of Directors, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2019-20 General Fund budget, which once again provides no additional Medicaid funding for nursing facility care during Wolf’s first five years in office:
“A Governor’s budget is first and foremost a statement of a Governor’s policy priorities. For the fifth straight year, the Governor proposed flat funding for long-term nursing facility care. Make no mistake about it: flat funding is a cut to our sector.
“It is abundantly clear that Pennsylvania’s oldest and most frail seniors and disabled citizens are not his priority. This lack of investment in seniors living in nursing facilities and their caregivers is fiscally unsustainable for this critical component of the long-term care continuum.
“With this budget proposal, the Governor has expressly stated that he believes inmate medical care is more important than providing long-term nursing care for Pennsylvania’s oldest and frailest citizens and places the quality of care provided to inmates above that of our older Pennsylvanians, many of the greatest generation.
“Once again, the governor has proposed an increase in funding (5.6% this year, 17.9% over the last 2 years) for inmate medical care, even while he is touting the number of inmates in Pennsylvania’s correctional institutions is going down.
“The Governor seems to understand medical cost inflation when it comes to inmate medical care, but not when it comes to seniors. While inmates deserve adequately funded quality care, so do Pennsylvania’s oldest and neediest population.
“Pennsylvania’s nursing facilities provide cost-effective, quality care to our most vulnerable populations. Two-thirds of all nursing facility residents, more than 52,000 seniors and individuals with disabilities, rely on Medicaid for their nursing facility care.
“For each resident, facilities provide nursing care and related services, specialized rehabilitative services, medically-related social services, pharmaceutical services, dietary services personalized to the needs of each resident, emergency dental services, and non-emergency medical transportation. All of these services are provided for an average reimbursement rate of $8.24 per hour. That is financially unsustainable. Especially when the Governor is calling for a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour by 2025.
“Pennsylvania’s nursing facilities would love nothing more than to pay all their direct caregivers upwards of $12-15 per hour. But Pennsylvania nursing facilities lose an average of $47.50 each day, or $17,300 annually for each Medicaid resident in their care because the state does not adequately pay for the cost of long-term nursing care.
“Here, the governor has had a chance to put his money where his mouth is knowing that any increase in long-term nursing care funding is going to go first to caregiver wages and salaries. This is completely under the governor’s control. He can choose to pay for long-term nursing care and funding to cover higher wages for caregivers, but apparently, it is a better soundbite than an actual priority.
“The challenges facing the long-term care industry and its caregivers are real. We must rely on the General Assembly for the necessary compassion to appropriately prioritize funding to support long-term nursing care for our oldest and frailest citizens.”