Area nursing homes are tightening their belts

Staff writer

Area nursing homes are feeling the bite of reimbursement cuts for Medicaid patients.

A 4 percent cut to Medicaid was announced by Gov. Sam Brownback in May. The cut was made to reduce the state’s ongoing budget woes by saving $57.4 million. Despite the fact that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has yet to approve the cuts, Kansas put the cuts into effect July 1.

Nursing homes tend to have a large proportion of Medicaid patients.

Jeremy Ensey, CEO of St Luke Hospital and Living Center, said the organization is feeling the bite of recent Medicaid cuts.

“In the Living Center, our bed tax has been increased by 152 percent so we are now paying almost $16,000 more per year,” Ensey said. “In addition, our Medicaid per day rate has been decreased by 4.5 percent. Those two changes alone could affect our bottom line by about $50,000 during the next year.”

Backlogs in Medicaid approvals for residents are in excess of 60 days, Ensey said.

Living Center residents covered by Medicaid fluctuate between 31 and nearly 50 percent, Ensey said.

Some of the cuts at the Living Center are offset by hospital and clinic revenues, Ensey said.

“St. Luke Hospital and Living Center continues to strive to give the best care to our patients and residents,” Ensey said. “Quality of care will not be compromised.”

Eric Schrag, CEO and administrator of Bethesda Home in Goessel, said 64 percent of Bethesda’s patients last year received Medicaid.

“Obviously the amount they were funding Medicaid wouldn’t cover everything,” Schrag said. “The four percent is having a decided impact. Originally they were going to rebate the rates to reflect cost of living increases.”

Schrag said all nursing home costs, including personnel, employee insurance, food and supplies, maintenance, and utility costs continue to rise.

“Everything goes up but our reimbursement does not,” Schrag said.

Bethesda, licensed for 45 beds, also has felt the effects of a backlog in approving Medicaid applications.

“One patient has been without payment for a year,” Schrag said.

Bethesda is working to control what costs they can, he said.

“I think, like everybody, we’re tightening in as many areas we can, like tightening energy and getting the best deals we can for food,” Schrag said.

Schrag said he definitely doesn’t want to cut salaries because he wants to keep dedicated employees, but Bethesda is looking for every cut they can make without sacrificing quality of care.

Valerie McGhee, CEO and administrator of Parkside Homes in Hillsboro, said the 4 percent cuts are in total state spending but not every nursing home will feel the cuts in the same way, she said.

“What we all have to do is try to stretch our dollars as much as we can,” McGhee said.

The backlog in approval of Medicaid applications is troublesome as well, McGhee said.

In the past, an applicant would be approved within three months.

One of Parkside’s patients died nine months after applying for Medicaid. The application never was approved.

“It doesn’t matter if you are part of a corporation or if you’re a stand-alone, you’re not dealing with a lot of extra cash,” McGhee said. “What all of us hope for is that we have more and more private pay and less and less Medicaid.”

Parkside has a good track record for taking care of its patients and will do whatever it takes to continue that path, McGhee said.

“We come to work every day and do the best we can for the residents we serve,” McGhee said.

Last modified Oct. 6, 2016