- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Advocates for Minnesota’s nursing home industry are looking for $200 million from the state, saying underfunding has forced some facilities to close.

The plan would overhaul reimbursements to nursing homes. Patti Cullen, president of Care Providers of Minnesota, said these payments haven’t kept up with inflation amid previous budget cuts. State laws don’t allow facilities to charge private patients more than what’s provided by Medicaid.

The proposal would also increase funding for nurse pay and give employees more health insurance options.

Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/1ElRI8B ) reports nursing homes have been hit hard in rural areas, where populations are aging and most of the state’s facilities are found. The plan is backed by key Republicans, with the GOP now in control of the Minnesota House.

The state has a $1 billion surplus, and the nursing home industry got $30 million more in funding last session.

“(Legislators) know the silver tsunami, they know the story about the demographics and now it’s time,” Cullen said. “I do think there’s a recognition that, ‘Who can be against seniors?’”

Republicans campaigned on nursing homes and gained seats in rural districts. Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, said the new proposal is among other House plans targeted at the state’s elderly and that $200 million “is what we’re underfunding our nursing homes at this time.”

“That’s not going to be a direction we can take too much longer without some serious repercussions,” said Schomacker, who chairs the House Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care Policy.

State Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, heads the Health and Human Services Budget Division of the Finance Committee and voiced his support for more nursing home funding. He declined to comment on the $200 million figure.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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