Flexibility On Nursing Home Beds Gains Ground In South Dakota Legislature


State lawmakers are working on ways to help South Dakota nursing homes in financial trouble because costs of patient care are rising faster than government payments.

The House Health and Human Services Committee gave its blessing Tuesday to one possible approach.

SB 61 would allow communities 18 months to try finding new owners for nursing homes that otherwise would close.

Representative Spencer Gosch, a Glenham Republican, is lead sponsor in the House.

He told the committee about what happened recently in his home county of Walworth.

The community of Selby raised about $500,000 to keep its nursing home open.

The community of Mobridge saw its nursing home shut down. But the home’s owner continues to control the licenses.  The legislation would change that.

The state Department of Health would be required to make available the nursing home’s beds for 18 months while a new organization is sought to run the home.

Senator Wayne Steinhauer, a Hartford Republican who knows a lot about running nursing homes, was prime sponsor of the bill. The Senate approved it 34-0.

State Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon agreed Tuesday her department should keep the beds available for 18 months while community members look for a different operator.

The Legislature in 2005 formally capped the number of nursing home beds and the number of nursing homes.

There was a general moratorium for many years before that, she said, because business owners were building nursing homes faster than patients were increasing.

Malsam-Rysdon said state law gives her department the ability to redistribute beds that become available through closures or are voluntarily given up. She said 255 beds already are available.

“What this bill does is, it makes it easier for those communities where that closure happens, by not requiring them to go through that competitive RFP (request for proposal) process,” Malsam-Rysdon said.

She added: “It adds flexibility for closures in the future,”

Also testifying for the bill was Tammy Hatting of Sioux Falls. She is vice-president for post-acute care and education at the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations.

“Part of our nursing-home crisis today, in addition to our low provider rates, is our aging facilities. In South Dakota, most facilities are over 40 years old,” Hatting said.

“And with the threat of new closures on the horizon, we feel this bill is a great solution, to not only keeping and maintaining our beds in our small communities, but also opening up the door to the possibility of new construction,” she continued.

The House committee voted 10-0 to endorse the bill. Representative Nancy York, a Watertown Republican, told other lawmakers afterward it would be good for House members to hear more about the bill and get a better understanding of the issue.

The committee amended the bill, so it will need to return to the Senate if the House approves it Thursday.

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