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State Representative Joe Hoppe

543 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-5066

For more information contact: Jodi Boyne 651-296-0640

Posted: 2008-04-30 00:00:00
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NEWS COLUMN

Make Nursing Homes a Priority


There are less than three weeks left in the session and agreements on major issues are starting to come into focus, albeit slowly. Democrats appear to be angling to resurrect bonding projects that got vetoed while Republicans are looking to scale back the 10 percent spending growth passed last year in order to balance the budget.

One area that I thought we had agreement on was nursing home funding. Despite the 10 percent overall spending increase last year (a result of the now-vanished $2.2 billion surplus) nursing homes were left on the outside looking in at spending increases they could only dream of ($90+ million for welfare, a 16 percent increase for the Legislature). Even though money is tight now, we need to find a way to make up for the lack of nursing home funding last year.

With the budget deficit we have to look for new ways to pay for nursing homes, so Republicans turned to something called the Health Care Access Fund, which funds state-sponsored health care programs like MinnesotaCare. Right now it has a surplus of almost $300 million so clearly there is money available for nursing homes. Our proposal was for a modest, yet vital, 2.25 percent increase, which costs roughly $20 million.

The response to our proposal borders on outrageous. Senator Tarryl Clark (DFL - St. Cloud) dismissed our proposal for the illogical reason that nursing homes “don’t really count” in her party’s definition of health care and shouldn’t get Health Care Access Fund money.

Nursing homes “don’t really count” as health care? I’m sure the workers, patients and their families who depend on nursing home care would take issue with that assertion. If nursing homes don’t count as health care, I don’t know what does.

Nursing home funding will be on the table for the next three weeks. Hopefully our pressure will be enough to work around Sen. Clark’s outrageous assertion so nursing homes finally get the funding they deserve.

The session ends May 19; I’ll keep you posted!

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