State lawmaker, organization talk solutions to Nebraska’s shrinking number of nursing homes

Nebraska lawmakers and organizations are trying to find solutions for the shortage of assisted living facilities in the state.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 10:00 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Nebraska Health Care Association says 10 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities closed across the state in 2022.

President and CEO Jaylene Carpenter said it’s because the aging population in rural areas is outpacing the number of younger people who can support them.

“So many of these residents who have lived in these facilities are having to go a much greater distance and further away from family,” Carpenter said.

She said it would make things worse if a new proposal by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) goes into effect. Every day, nursing homes would be required to provide each resident with a half hour of care from a registered nurse and two-and-a-half hours of care from a nurse’s aid.

“If the minimum staffing rule goes through as it is today, I can guarantee there will be closures across the state,” Carpenter said.

She said since Medicaid pays for most residents, states should continue determining what staffing in nursing homes should be.

“The state is funding the majority of people who live in nursing homes,” Carpenter said. “So we believe this is not a federal issue, that this is a state issue.”

Nebraska State Sen. John Fredrickson told 6 News lawmakers have proposed restructuring Medicaid reimbursement rates in recent years.

“Sixty-nine percent of residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Nebraska rely on Medicaid reimbursement,” Fredrickson said. “So we need to ensure that those rates are appropriate for the services that they’re getting, and then also that they enable these facilities to be able to be sustainable.”

He doesn’t think it should stop there, though.

“We also need to look at this larger than just filling positions with bodies and look at this more like to ensure that we have the population in Nebraska to sustain a vibrant state and economy,” he said. “Are we creating a state and an environment that is appealing and attractive to young professionals to stay here and to live their lives here?”

Carpenter said one thing the federal government could do to help is provide additional funding to pay for nursing homes.

She said the Nebraska Health Care Association is working on after-school programs to get grade-school-aged children interested in the healthcare field.

The CMS staffing standards proposal is in the comment phase. The public can weigh in until Nov. 6. The agency will then decide whether to make any changes.