With 10 percent cuts in Medicaid reimbursements going into effect this month, it is imperative that state agencies and nonprofit groups redouble their efforts to monitor conditions and care in nursing homes across the state.
Many Kansas nursing homes do a wonderful job of caring for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents, but such a significant loss of state support will make that more difficult. They will be forced to cut corners to make ends meet. It’s important to make sure they don’t cut in ways that compromise their residents’ care and safety.
The Kansas Department of Aging is required to inspect every Kansas nursing home once a year. According to the department’s annual report for the fiscal year ending July 2009, there are 316 Medicaid-certified nursing homes serving an average of 10,809 Medicaid-eligible residents each month. These are the people whose own financial resources have been depleted to the extent that they can’t cover the costs of their own care.
The 10 percent reduction in Medicaid funding will have a devastating effect on nursing home budgets. Some may be forced to simply quit accepting new Medicaid residents. Others will be forced to try to cover their costs with significantly less money.
Such financial pressures take a toll. To stay afloat, nursing homes must make tough choices about staffing and services. Even if they do the best they can, some of those choices could have a negative impact on patient care.
In addition to the efforts of the Department of Aging, the state also is fortunate to have the nonprofit Kansas Advocates for Better Care keeping an eye on the quality of care provided at Kansas nursing homes. KABC was founded in 1975 as Kansans for the Improvement of Nursing Homes largely due to the efforts of Lawrence resident Petey Cerf.
KABC regularly publishes information on nursing home inspections, listing those homes with the least deficiencies, as well as those with the most. The group also maintains a toll-free line (800-525-1782) for long-term care information and a Web site (www.kabc.org) that directs consumers to other resources for legal or long-term care assistance or to report suspected abuse or neglect.
During the current budget crisis, much attention has been focused on the impact budget cuts will have public schools and higher education. That attention is justified, but the residents of state nursing homes, many of whom are unable to advocate for themselves, also demand the state’s attention and support.