San Francisco Chronicle Examines Bill Addressing Nursing Home Reimbursement
The San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday examined the debate over a bill (AB 1629) the Legislature approved last month that would increase Medi-Cal and federal reimbursements to nursing homes (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/18). AB 1629, sponsored by Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Glendale), would allow the state to use $250 million in federal funds to increase Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for nursing homes. Under the bill, the state would require health care providers to pay a quality assurance fee to obtain the federal funds (California Healthline, 8/13). The bill would require the Department of Health Services to reimburse nursing homes based on their labor and capital costs rather than using a flat rate.
The bill also would mandate annual audits of the funds to assess the accuracy of the new reimbursement rate. Unless renewed by the Legislature, the bill would expire in 2008.
Beth Capell, a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union, said, "If you improve staff and wages, you're improving the quality of care. If nursing homes spend more on staffing and wages, they get more money. It's a huge incentive."
In response to concern that the state would be responsible for reimbursement if federal funding is reduced, Assembly member Keith Stuart Richman (R-Granada Hills) said, "We have a crisis and are trying to make it better. Might we face another crisis in the future? Yes, so we'll deal with it. But one is reality, and the other is theoretical."
Patricia McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said more money should be spent on nursing home audits and inspections. "They say, 'Give us more money and we'll provide better care,' but they have not. Where are the checks and balances to ensure that is going to happen?" she asked.
"This bill is ensuring a guaranteed profit regardless of outcomes," Lupe de la Cruz, an AARP lobbyist, said, adding, "It's a missed opportunity to provide incentives for better care and for ensuring bad nursing homes don't get profits."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has until Sept. 30 to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/18).