Senate Republicans Confused and Saddened by Gov. Mills’ Actions on Nursing Homes

For Immediate Release

On Monday, both houses of the Legislature unanimously passed a Joint Order, submitted by Democrats, to recall LD 1785 from Governor Mills’ desk and fix a mistake the governor made when she refused to sign the bill into law two months ago.

Instead of working with legislators to fix the bill, the Governor took a step no governor has ever taken. She refused to comply with a Joint Order of the Legislature to recall a bill from her desk. This sets a serious and dangerous precedent, just so she could prevent the money from reaching nursing homes.

Governor Mills says she continues to fight this bill because it would cause Maine to exceed a federal limit through which it qualifies for matching federal funds. This is simply not true. First, the state is nowhere near this limit, and second, as the language of the bill explains, state law prohibits DHHS from exceeding it. The Governor could easily have signed the bill and directed DHHS to stay within the limit as required by state law.

Instead, she now claims that exceeding this limit would cause Maine to lose $55 million in federal funding. This is also completely untrue. There is no federal law or regulation that gives the federal government the authority to revoke funds when a state exceeds this payment limit.

Even if Maine somehow exceeded the limit, the federal government would simply stop providing their matching funds for payments that did so. They would not revoke previously awarded funds.

The Governor also claims that, in her budget, she proposed and secured $8.5 million in state funds to increase MaineCare payment rates to nursing facilities and directed DHHS to use $11 million in existing funds for a new cost-of-living adjustment for nursing facilities. What she does not say, however, is that both of these adjustments are required by law and that a cost-of-living adjustment simply maintains the status quo for employee wages from two years ago. Under that status quo, seven Maine nursing homes have closed. Clearly, the level her budget maintains for nursing homes is not sufficient.

Additionally, the governor says that “Commissioner of Health and Human Services Jeanne Lambrew is working with stakeholders to identify a different way to calculate this payment limit.” Back in June, the Legislature passed LD 1838, a Democratic-sponsored bill that provided funding to do just that, but the Governor chose to hold that bill as well.

According to the Governor, our efforts to help keep more Maine nursing homes from closing is “a political act with no productive goal.” The nursing homes, she says, “are OK.”

We disagree. After seeing many of these critical facilities close in the past two years, it is clear that they are not “OK” and our effort to provide more funding to our elderly and disabled friends, neighbors, and family members is a very productive and responsible goal. The Governor’s refusal to take a serious look at state law and federal regulations is confounding and deeply disappointing.

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