South Dakota voters turned down nearly every ballot issue in Tuesday’s election, including Initiated Measure 15, which would have split a penny sales tax between Medicaid and education. The vote means more of the same for nursing homes, which have already seen substantial cuts in both Medicaid and Medicare funds.
“We've been open two months and we've only been able to admit Medicare and Medicaid residents in the last two weeks,” Brandon Bethany Home CEO/Administrator Dennis Sever said.
Though it’s state-of-the-art, Bethany Home of Brandon is experiencing an old and persistent problem. There isn't enough money to pay for its patients.
“We can't pass more on to our private pay and we're trying to limit what we can do there,” Sever said.
Sever said a Medicaid patient's daily cost is $160.58, but the home gets $120 per day. It's up to management to figure out a way to make up the difference.
When you add in recent Medicare cuts of more than ten percent, and a potential of even more cuts coming down the line, Sever says there's a lot to worry about for all South Dakota's nursing homes.
“We ended up having to freeze wages for our employees. They all pitched in. We changed fringe benefits to make it not hurt so bad,” Sever said.
The extra penny tax proposed from Initiated Measure 15 would have put about $90 million into the hands of South Dakota's Medicaid providers.
“Long-term care would have gotten a portion of that, and it would have made a difference,” Sever said.
But he said it may not have helped in the long run depending on the state’s funding formula. Several smaller South Dakota facilities could be forced to close if lawmakers don’t come up with a solution for the funding shortfall.
Sever hopes for a small increase in 2013. Just this week he met officials in South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office about the issue.