Two weeks into the state government shutdown – the longest in history – Governor Dayton and Republican legislative leadership struck a deal outlining a framework for a budget agreement. Governor Dayton announced in a speech yesterday that he was willing to accept the Republican’s June 30 budget offer, with some conditions, in order to get the government working again. Dayton said he was “willing to agree to something I do not agree with” to end the shutdown. Dayton, Speaker Kurt Zellers & Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch emerged from a 3 hour meeting to announce they had agreed to a framework based on that budget offer.
Agreement Closes $1.4 Billion Gap with Funding Shifts, Tobacco Bonds
The framework includes a $2.1 billion in savings from a shift in school aid payments and $700 million in one-time revenue from the issuance of tobacco bonds, but no tax increases. Dayton’s additional conditions were a $500 million bonding bill, removal of some controversial policy provisions the GOP proposed earlier in negotiations and removal of a proposed 15% state workforce cut. This agreement closes the remaining $1.4 billion difference between the two sides. Click Here to view Dayton’s letter to Zellers and Koch outlining the proposal.
Many details still need to be worked out on the budget deal. Finance Chairs and Commissioners will join the discussions starting today with Health and Human Services. No date is set for the special session yet, but Dayton said the shutdown will be over in a matter of days. Meetings are expected to occur around the clock for the next few days to hammer out the remaining details.
With a possible state shutdown just a couple of days away, there is an ongoing fear about what will happen with Medicaid payments to providers. Over the past two weeks, there has been a lot of jostling for position by both sides.
Through the work of Aging Services of Minnesota and the Long Term Care Imperative, they were able to get Governor Dayton to make adjustments in his brief to Ramsey County that would include these services as an essential service.
This morning (Wednesday), Pat Kessler from WCCO-TV reports that a Ramsey County judge orders govt programs to continue in shutdown: Medicaid, food stamps, nursing/vets homes, health services. Ramsey County Judge Gearin’s government shutdown order funds only limited services; reflects Dayton plan.
This is really good news for older adults and providers in the state who were preparing for the unknown.
“On behalf of the nearly 60,000 Minnesotans and their families who rely on dedicated caregivers for daily care and support, we are relieved by the court’s ruling,” said Gayle Kvenvold, president and CEO of Aging Services of Minnesota. “However, a shutdown will not be pain-free. We need a responsible state budget that will protect Minnesota’s most vulnerable adults.”
Trincy Faas, Linda Beyers (Potter Ridge Assisted Living-Red Wing) and Roman Bloemke (Welcome Home Health Care-Hutchinson)
This past week, we were privileged to join with 300 other senior living providers at the Minnesota state Capitol as we visited with our state representatives. Visiting from Welcome Home were Linda Beyers, RN and Trincy Faas, Director of Resident Services at Potter Ridge Assisted Living from Red Wing, Minnesota; Loree Besser, Director of Resident Services at Excelsior Place Assisted Living from Baxter, Minnesota; and Roman Bloemke, Director of Operations from Welcome Home Health Care from Hutchinson, Minnesota.
At the heart of our meeting were the proposed changes to the Elderly Waiver program and its impact on our residents, our team members, and to the overall local economy.
On March 16, the U.S. Senate Aging Committee held a roundtable discussion entitled, “Assisted Living at the Dawn of America’s ‘Age Wave’: What Have States Achieved and How is the Federal Role Evolving?” The discussion included a wide range of stakeholder representatives from state and federal agencies, providers, and advocates, who examined various issues relating to assisted living. Officials from several states described the regulations they have in place to protect the interests of assisted living residents, and there was no consensus on any greater federal regulatory role. Much of the discussion focused on the use of Medicaid waivers and a variety of sources of capital to create affordable assisted living.
The House Health and Human Services proposal includes a total repeal of rate equalization, but balances the budget by gouging already underfunded nursing homes and home health care programs designed to help seniors remain in their homes.
When the House budget targets for Health and Human Services were announced there was little doubt that the budget would include cuts to seniors. Today Rep. Jim Abeler (R – Anoka) released an HHS budget bill that includes deep cuts to nursing homes and home and community-based services, which are designed to provide care to seniors in their homes at a lower cost.
The Long-Term Care Imperative recognizes the effort that went into putting together the HHS budget and praises Rep. Abeler for repealing rate equalization, which is an important first step in reforming long-term care financing.
However, the effects of reforms like this do not make nursing homes and other care providers immune to the huge cuts to seniors that are included in the budget proposal. “Rather than small, across the board rate cuts for nursing homes, this budget includes $35 million in deep, uneven slices that will certainly result in facility closures at a time when demand for service is only going up,” said Patti Cullen, president and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota. “The tone coming from the capitol this year has been that nursing homes should be protected. If nursing homes are indeed going to be protected, that is not what has happened in this bill.”
In a relatively surprising move, Governor Dayton’s recent budget proposal appears to go against the state’s aging vulnerable adults. A combined press release from Care Providers of Minnesota and Aging Services of Minnesota sums up what most providers of older adult services in this state feared.