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Health News Florida

Florida Senate Budget Panel OKs Changes To Nursing Home Funding

Credit River Garden Senior Services

Florida Senate budget chiefs Wednesday greenlit a spending plan that includes a new formula for reimbursing nursing homes.

Opponents say the proposal would cut Medicaid dollars for top performing homes, while proponents argue it’ll result in a more equitable distribution of state funds.

With 60 percent of nursing home residents on Medicaid, a lion’s share of the long-term care facilities depend on state reimbursement to stay afloat.

Right now, nursing homes are funded retroactively after they submit expense reports. Officials audit those payments annually to make sure taxpayers aren't overpaying.

The Senate proposal would instead pay nursing homes a predetermined amount up front based on a specific formula.

Florida Health Care Association Director Emmett Reed, who represents more than 80 percent of nursing homes in the state, said the current system is antiquated and vulnerable to waste.

“That’s good for taxpayers when the state has more predictability on how much they’re going to spend on Medicaid beds or Medicaid recipients and also for the skilled nursing,” he said.

And though the plan includes $26 million in incentives for the highest-performing homes, CEO Emeritus for River Garden Hebrew Home in Jacksonville Elliott Palevsky told senators the new distribution formula would punish four and five star facilities like his.

The payment plan was first unveiled last year by state-contracted Navigant consulting group. It includes a transition period before the funds shift. It would also move more state dollars away from care costs to facility renovations and reward nursing homes that make more efficient use of funds.

River Garden officials said the plan rewards nursing homes for cutting costs to inflate profits.

“When, under the Navigant plan, it seemed that River Garden was going to win $200,000, our trustees voted to oppose the plan as poor public policy,” Palevsky said. “Now that River Garden stands to lose $200,000, we continue to oppose this as poor public policy.”

The House shelved the plan in its own budget, but both Palevsky and Reed agree the plan could still become the law of the land through budget negotiations.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org , 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk .

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

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