Nursing home question carrying $272 million cost

By Colin A. Young Jan 28, 2020

Supporter after supporter testified Tuesday in favor of a potential 2020 ballot question updating rates paid by state government to nursing homes, leading Sen. Patricia Jehlen to question where the money to pay the new, higher rates would come from.

“Who’s going to pay for this? We don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars unspent in the commonwealth,” Jehlen, the Senate co-chair of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, said. “If we reject every tax opportunity before us and we accept all of the responsibility ahead of us, how is that going to balance out?”

Jehlen was reacting to the estimate from the Massachusetts Senior Care Association that the proposal it supports to update Medicaid funding for nursing homes (H 4304) could cost the state $272 million during calendar year 2021, half of which the organization said would be reimbursed by the federal government.

“Massachusetts nursing facilities are in the midst of a historic financial and workforce crisis. This crisis impacts all nursing facilities — not for profit, for-profit, family-owned — and is directly attributable to a MassHealth payment system that has not kept pace with the cost of nursing facility care over the last decade,” said Thomas Lavallee, an Alliance Health Management Services executive who serves as chairman of Mass. Senior Care.

The association has been warning that 95 nursing homes, about 25 percent of the total in the state, are at risk of closing due to underfunding from the state, rising labor costs, and competition from assisted living and home care operators. Lavallee said 32 Massachusetts nursing homes have closed in the last two years.