If you don’t lose, is it a win?
Some have called it a victory that the nursing facilities came out of the budget negotiations without major cuts. However, the fact that they may not have had a direct loss does not make them a winner.
The nursing homes are on the receiving end of a four-year rate freeze, this despite the fact that costs are rising and Minnesota is already far behind the curve as far as reimbursement levels go. Since a freeze is but a cut in sheep’s clothing, we should expect to see further damage to our senior care. The Long-Term Care Imperative 2010 Legislative survey showed that more than 75% of responding providers have implemented salary freezes or cuts, 26% reduced hours for non-direct care staff, 19% reduced hours for direct care staff, 13% reduced employee health care benefits, and 6% reduced employee retirement benefits. All before the new budget was even agreed on. Wage rates for nursing facility caregivers are already substantially lower than hospital and home rates, and with further reduced wages it will be difficult for nursing facilities to attract and retain quality staff.
It is not a great triumph that an industry already struggling to stay afloat will be allowed to continue to tread water, rather than be instantly sunk. By failing to invest in elder care, we are failing to take care of those who made Minnesota great. And things will deteriorate as more time goes by that providers go understaffed, are unable to update their computers, buy equipment and provide quality care.
Call me crazy, but this is no victory.