(Augusta, ME) – Senate President Troy Jackson has rejected a proposal that would have immediately addressed the funding crisis in caring for Maine’s seniors. The proposed legislation, submitted February 28 by Assistant Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake, would have directed Governor Mills to use some of the more than $30 million in unspent Medicaid funds sitting idle in DHHS coffers to aid underfunded nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home care agencies.
Repeatedly since last June, Senate Republicans have pleaded with our Democratic colleagues to address this critical issue. Again and again they have ignored our pleas and the plight of our seniors in these facilities.
Yesterday, the legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee heard a bill sponsored by Sen. Shenna Bellows to alleviate the funding crisis with home care agencies. But in this bill Sen. Bellows specifically excludes any funding for nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Though it only covers one third of the state’s senior care programs, Sen. Timberlake is a co-sponsor of the bill.
The money that could address the funding crisis for all of these facilities is sitting idle in state coffers. All that is needed is for this money to be redirected to address this crisis.
Last week, the U.S. Center for Disease Control issued guidelines for nursing homes on how to prepare for the possibility of the coronavirus among patients. Elderly people in these facilities are the most susceptible to the virus.
To date, 19 of the 27 deaths in the United States are from just one nursing facility in Washington State. Maine’s nursing homes are understaffed and underfunded, making them highly vulnerable if an outbreak should occur here in Maine.
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Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow: “Having spent months trying to persuade Democrats to do what is right, the actions of the Senate President have made it clear to me that he and his party simply refuse to adequately support the nursing facilities in Maine that care for seniors who are Medicaid patients. I can think of no legitimate reason why they have chosen this course.”
Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake: “Senator Jackson refused to include adequate funding for nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state budget. Then Republicans funded a bill that he sponsored which would have aided nursing facilities statewide. Now, he has refused to immediately allow a bill that would use unspent, idle money to address this funding crisis. His refusal to act will lead to the loss of care for more of Maine’s seniors.”
Timeline of Democrats’ Resistance to Nursing Home Funding
The State budget passed last June included only the minimum additional funding required by law.
LD 1758, a bill sponsored by Senator Jackson last session that would have addressed the situation. Republicans and not Democrats allocated all of the funding they could to the bill.
Governor Mills held LD 1758 and then defied a unanimous Joint Order of the legislature that would have brought the bill back to the legislature for further consideration.
DHHS Commissioner Lambrew refused to consider using unspent Medicaid funds for senior care agencies and facilities.
Sen. Shenna Bellows submitted LD 2137, a bill to fund home care for seniors but specifically excluded nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Sen. Timberlake submitted a bill proposal that would have provided an immediate solution to the problem without any additional General Fund expenditures.
The U.S. CDC issued “Strategies to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in Long Term Care Facilities.”
Senate President Jackson refused to allow the bill proposal to be circulated by ballot to the Legislative Council.