Nursing Homes Question Governor's Budget

In a nursing home, like Oak Park with 100 beds, Governor Doyle's new proposal to raise the bed tax from $75 to $125 a month doesn't sit well.

"It wouldn't be bad if those dollars matched by the federal government would all go to health care," says Scott Frank of Oak Park Nursing and Rehabilitation, "But he's planning on taking half of that and putting it toward the deficit."

Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (WAHSA) says, "In addition, the rate increase that is being proposed is entirely funded by the bed tax increase and so it is viewed as a double whammy."

Sauer says Medicaid covers about 65 percent of all nursing home residents. But costs are going up about five percent and Doyle is only providing a 1.4 percent increase, funded by the bed tax.

Frank says there is another solution. "If he could really tax all long-term care providers, not–profit and for-profit, for real estate tax and create it through Medicaid, we could then match those dollars and that would really impact us a lot."

But Doyle's tax may help him reach another goal.

In his budget address Tuesday night he said, "Tonight, I'm setting an ambitious goal for our state: in the next eight years, let's reduce the number of people in nursing homes by 25%."

"I think that's great if it's fitting and it is affordable," says Frank, "But for example, here we really only have one resident that would fit and be able to have it more affordable to be sent home. The others would be much more expensive."

Sauer adds, "We think the numbers are vastly overstated about the number of people in nursing homes today who could be served elsewhere at a more cost effective rate."

That's why they both agree if Doyle's proposal goes through, he will close the door on the elderly.

"We'd have to downsize the population we take care of on Medicaid, there's no doubt about it," says Frank, "That means less access for those who really can't afford care."

Sauer says admissions to nursing homes have increased by 90 percent in the last 10 years.

He also says on average, privately paid nursing home residents already pay $50 more than they should to pay for the Medicaid shortfall.

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