Maine Senate Republicans Call for Agreement to Fund Nursing Homes

(Augusta, Me.) – Senate Republicans are calling on Democrats and Governor Mills to commit today to fully fund Maine’s nursing homes when the Legislature returns in January. This would complete the efforts from last session surrounding LD 1758.

Recently, DHHS Commissioner Lambrew testified before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee that the state’s share of the cost of the bill for FY2020 was $7 million.

Revenues collected by state government for the first quarter of FY2020 have exceeded budget expectations by $30.5 million. There is plenty of funding now available for this important purpose.

While there had been disagreement between the Governor and legislative staff on whether the original funding in LD 1758 would have placed the state in violation of the federal Medicaid “upper payment limit,” Commissioner Lambrew admitted in her testimony that the state could be using a cost-based calculation for these funds which would not create a problem with federal rules.

According to the commissioner, under this system, “You almost can’t be at a violation of the federal upper payment limit.”

During the last two years, seven of Maine’s nursing homes have closed due to funding shortfalls. The state budget passed in June added some funding, but only what was required by law for cost of living increases, and this only maintains the status quo that led to the closings. The state still has not properly addressed the fiscal climate that caused the closures.

In addition, the state mandated minimum wage increase has not been followed by an equal increase in state funding needed to meet these higher costs while offering competitive wages and benefits to workers.

LD 1758 is the bill to which Senate Republicans allocated $1.04 million in order to provide some relief to nursing homes and their employees, but Governor Mills stopped that funding by holding the bill and refusing a joint order of the Legislature to recall it.

Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow: “It is clear that we have the funds to cover the costs required by nursing homes. All that is needed now is a commitment from the Legislature and the governor to prioritize these needs above others and use the surplus funds to prevent further

closures.”Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake: “This is an issue that I have been very passionate about and we are finally in a situation where we can help these facilities and prevent further closings. The money is there, we know the costs. All that is needed now is the political will to do so.”

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