Negotiators Fail to Resolve Nursing Home Funding Cut
Around the State
Lawmakers continued hammering out a Health and Human Services budget Wednesday, but Senate and House negotiators failed to agree on how to resolve a funding cut that removes nearly $200 million in Medicaid funding to nursing homes.
Negotiators agreed to bump discussions of the funding cut for now, along with discussions of whether to overhaul the state Medicaid program, to conclude this round of conferencing of the Health and Human Services budget. The issues will be taken up again later in the process.
The negotiators have spent the past few days sending budget changes back forth to each other late into the night, but they have been unable to get over the stumbling block of a lack of available funds for the state’s nursing home system. With the current numbers, nursing homes would face a 7 percent cut in Medicaid funding.
On Wednesday, when negotiators compared their third offers, Republican senators came away highly disappointed that they would be unable to whittle down the loss.
Early in the process, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, led the charge to lower funding cuts to nursing homes, an important and demanded resource in Negron’s home district, which has a high population of retirees and elderly snowbirds.
The night before House and Senate negotiators made their final offers, Negron said he was looking to take funds from “soft programs" for the fund.
“We’re looking for funds in the budget that are a lower priority to supplement the nursing homes,” he said.
On Wednesday, it became clear that those cuts might have to come from programs from the Department of Children and Families. The House disagreed and returned a counter offer, and the discussions ended in a stalemate, despite pleas from Negron and Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, to extend the debate until the issue was resolved.
“In all likelihood, we’re not going to get to this today,” said Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid.
Nursing homes face possible staffing cuts under the budget, despite a program that brings in extra federal dollars, said Kristen Knapp, spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents long-term providers.
Approved last year, Nursing Home Quality Assessment allows for federal money for nursing homes that self-assess up to a certain percentage. The nursing home industry used $593 million from the program this year.
But nursing homes may still have to cut support staff and, possibly, key nurses and medical staff. Nearly 70 percent of nursing home costs account for staffing, Knapp said.
Gaetz told the House that he was “disappointed” in the decision not to reduce the nursing home cut and said later that he would give it priority over a plea to receive $50 million from the state from a Miami hospital system that specializes in treatment of the poor.
“I wouldn’t give a penny to Jackson Memorial Hospital until we take care of our senior citizens in nursing homes,” he said,
Medicaid has been a constant sticking point as conferees hammer out the differences between the Senate budget, initially proposed to total $69.5 billion, and the House Budget, initially proposed to total $67.2 billion. The Senate originally intended to inject $880 million in anticipated federal FMAP funds into its budget, but that number was reduced. Conferees are now working on the assumption that they will be able to inject $115 million into the budget.
Contact Alex Tiegen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (561) 366-5193.