Midlands Voices: Why adequate funding for senior care should matter to Nebraskans

By Heath Boddy and Jeremy Hohlen.  Boddy is president and CEO of Nebraska Health Care Association. Hohlen is president and CEO of LeadingAge Nebraska.

Omaha World Herald – April 16, 2018

A recent court order placed 21 nursing facilities and 11 assisted living facilities across 19 Nebraska counties in receivership. The State of Nebraska determined this was necessary because the owner was “financially unable to pay staff and ensure the future care of the residents.”

Currently, 53 percent of nursing facility residents and 25 percent of assisted living residents in Nebraska rely on Medicaid funding for the care they receive. As it stands, Medicaid pays an average of $25 less than the cost of care per day, per resident.

That kind of financial loss is simply not sustainable. In fact, what business model could sustain this?

Further creating the perfect storm, Nebraska census data indicates that we are primed to experience a tsunami of baby boomers.

By 2030, the number of Nebraskans aged 65 to 74 will be nearly double what it was eight years ago. By 2050, the number of Nebraskans needing senior care will outnumber those needing child care.

In the past three years, 25 facilities in Nebraska have closed their doors.

Facilities will continue to be at risk unless Medicaid reimbursement for seniors is a priority in our state budget.

Facility closings affect all Nebraskans — directly or indirectly.

For residents, closings mean having to find a new care facility, sometimes being forced to leave behind their beloved community and live away — sometimes hundreds of miles away — from family and friends to get the care they need.

For employees, it means lost wages and lost sleep as they try to answer the question, “What now?” It can mean they, too, must drive great distances to work and spend additional resources.

These are people trained and called to care for our state’s seniors. If they aren’t available, who will care for our seniors?

For the affected communities and the state, it means experiencing a large financial hit, as the long-term care industry infuses $2 billion into Nebraska’s overall economy.

The increased need for adequate Medicaid funding for those living in skilled nursing or assisted living facilities is real.

If Medicaid isn’t a priority in our state budget, then we will fail our senior population. Only the governor and state senators have the ability to resolve this financial crisis.

How we proceed now will have a profound effect on not just the seniors of today, but the ones of tomorrow.