Topeka — A proposal remains in play that would tax nursing home beds in order to generate more state and federal funds that could go back into services for the elderly and those with disabilities.
Gov. Mark Parkinson brought opposing sides together for a meeting last week and talks are continuing. But, so far, there is no agreement.
Nursing homes have been hit hard by budget cuts. Parkinson cut Medicaid spending by 10 percent in the current fiscal year as part of a budget crisis that continues to worsen.
“Every time the state doesn’t appropriately reimburse the providers, the snowball gets bigger and bigger,” said Cindy Luxem, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Health Care Association.
In addition to being cut, nursing homes are getting more residents because cuts in home- and community-based services have increased the number of people having to enter nursing homes.
The Kansas Health Care Association supports the proposal, which would assess a $1,325 annual tax on each licensed nursing home bed.
This would raise about $30 million, and draw $57 million in federal Medicaid funds. Almost all of the $87 million would be returned to nursing homes. Homes with more Medicaid residents would get more money, while nursing homes with few Medicaid residents would pay more than they would get back. Medicaid is the federal and state funded program that provides health coverage for low-income families.
“The state needs this money, and the providers need the money,” Luxem said. “If we can get the provider assessment flowing back to the Department of Aging, this could free up funding for other things.” Thirty-seven other states already do this.
But Debra Zehr, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, said it’s not a good idea.
“It’s kind of like saying, ‘pay me $4 and I’ll pay you back the $10 I owe you,’” Zehr said.
She said other states that have approved a similar law end up increasing the tax and diverting the money for purposes other than helping the elderly.
As the Kansas budget hole deepens, legislators are seeking ways to find new revenue. After cuts of nearly $1 billion, the Legislature still faces a projected revenue shortfall of about $500 million.