Minnesota lawmakers are trying to repeal a law passed more than 30 years ago that requires nursing homes to charge the same rate to both Medicaid and private-pay patients.
AARP spokesperson Amy McDonough is against the change, arguing that the state shouldn’t return to the days when ailing older people with limited savings were stuck in hospitals waiting for a Medicaid bed to open up at a nursing home. She says that would lead to a two-tier nursing home system that discriminates against poorer patients, affects the quality of care, and creates a burden for private-pay patients.
“These are not rich people. They’re teachers, they’re state employees, they’re small business owners who tried to do the right thing, and tried to find a way to save a little bit of money. But nursing home care is extremely expensive. So, there comes a time when you eat up your savings, and you end up being on the medical-assistance program because you have no more money.”
McDonough says repealing the law does nothing to help the state’s budget dilemma, and actually will create higher costs for the state.
“Once you repeal rate equalization, nursing homes are able to charge private-pay residents thousands of dollars more. That results in them eating up their savings much more quickly, and they end up being on the Medicaid program sooner than they would have otherwise.”
Retired teacher Alfred MacAffee, 85, is worried that will happen to his wife, Alice. A retired government employee, she has Alzheimer’s disease and has been living in a nursing home for the past four years. They saved for retirement and purchased long-term care insurance, but Alfred MacAffee the costs are overwhelming.
“The costs run around $6,700 a month, and then we get $2,700 from the long-term care, and then I pay the difference – around $4,000 a month.”
He estimates that they have another 10 months left before the insurance dries up – and even less if rate equalization is repealed.
“We need to be fair about this. We shouldn’t pay more than others. And if we pay more, what kind of more service are we going to get? I think it will cause the nursing homes to select who they want. There are other ways I think we can do it, and I just hope that more people will speak out and do something.”
A recent AARP survey conducted by the University of Minnesota shows that Minnesotans overwhelmingly support the current law – and results were roughly the same regardless of political affiliation.
An amendment to remove the repeal failed on the floor Wednesday night, as the Senate voted to pass the Health and Human Services budget bill by a 37-26 vote. The House Health and Human Services bill is expected to go to the floor for debate sometime next week.