Administration Backs Extension of Nursing Home Pay Increase
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration supports extending a 2004 law that increased Medi-Cal payments for nursing homes, provided that lawmakers address issues raised in a report released this week, according to Toby Douglas, deputy director of the Department of Health Care Services, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Darcé, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/11). Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
The report by UC-San Francisco researchers found that Medi-Cal funding for nursing homes increased by $590 million, and total revenue for nursing homes jumped by $1.1 billion from 2004 to 2006, the first year the law was fully implemented.
Over the same time period, the study also found that:
- Patient complaints of mistreatment increased by 38%;
- State and federal citations of nursing homes increased by 6%;
- Nursing attention for patients grew by 3%;
- Spending on direct patient care decreased by 3.6%; and
- Average net profit for nursing homes experienced a 233% hike (California Healthline, 4/8).
Officials from the state and the nursing home industry maintain that the study is not an accurate assessment of the law's effects.
Charlene Harrington, lead author of the report and a professor at UCSF, said that when the law comes up for reauthorization in 2009, lawmakers should add spending requirements and penalties for missing the requirements (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/11).
The increased Medi-Cal reimbursements were "supposed to improve care for the poor and reduce what had been a trend of nursing homes going out of business," but "not enough is known about where the money went," an editorial in the San Francisco Examiner states.
The editorial adds that "few of the promised benefits for California's neediest nursing home residents have surfaced," concluding, "The law should be amended to give it much stronger teeth" (San Francisco Examiner, 4/11).