By Mark Anderson, president and CEO, Knute Nelson, Alexandria, MN
Minnesota is facing a perfect storm. Our state's aging population is soaring at the same time senior care providers face extreme workforce shortages. This intersection should be creating a sense of urgency at the State Capitol to put Minnesota on the right path to meet the growing needs of its aging population.
But that is not the case.
Governor Tim Walz and the DFL-led Minnesota House of Representatives are proposing a $68 million cut in funding to nursing homes and dividing the state into geographic reimbursement regions that will create up to a 20 percent difference in funding between rural and metro nursing homes.
This is the wrong direction for Minnesota, and, if approved, it will have a chilling effect on professional caregivers and the seniors who rely on them for care and services as they age throughout Minnesota.
Just four years ago, the Minnesota Legislature approved a new funding formula that reimbursed nursing homes for the actual costs of care - after a decade of underfunding - and ensured they received the same reimbursement rate for costs related to direct caregiving - regardless of where they were located. This was welcomed and supported by our locally elected officials.
These reforms improved the quality of care and services that seniors receive while providing significant increases in salaries and benefits for professional caregivers for the first time in over a decade. They also brought a sense of stability and certainty to nursing homes - many of whom were on the cusp of closing.
But now, once again, nursing homes, the seniors they serve and the dedicated caregivers who help our elders experience a high quality of life are plunged into a state of uncertainty by some elected officials who fail to recognize the devastating impact these funding cuts will have on senior care.
It takes the State of Minnesota up to 27 months to reimburse nursing homes for the cost of care incurred today. Some nursing homes will experience an immediate shortfall in funding because of these funding cuts. They will be left in the untenable situation to cover the costs they already accrued within their existing budgets because the State of Minnesota failed to uphold its responsibility.
When 65 percent of a nursing home's budget is dedicated to wages, benefits and training, the burden of these cuts will once again fall to the caregivers who deserve competitive wages and meaningful careers. These cuts will also further exacerbate the ability to recruit and retain the number of skilled, quality caregivers needed to meet the growing demand for senior care, services and support.
You can't cut your way to quality care. With a $1 billion state budget surplus, Governor Walz and the Minnesota House DFL should be placing a higher priority on supporting the caregiving profession and ensuring investments in quality care that seniors deserve and families expect.