Michigan nursing homes ask state for Medicaid funding increase this year

Hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan nursing homes are asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state Legislature for an additional $30 million in general funds to help long-term care facilities overcome a steep decline in revenue coupled with increased staffing and infection control costs.

“Nursing facilities have been partners in the state’s response to the pandemic, working every day to protect our most vulnerable population,” said Melissa Samuel, president and CEO of the Health Care Association of Michigan, in a statement.

“Providers need help to bridge the gap in the coming months as we continue the vaccination efforts underway to protect our residents and staff,” Samuel said. “This will allow for operations to return to normal and census and revenues to stabilize. Providers and caregivers need this help today.”

HCAM represents 356 of the state’s 440 long-term care facilities.

If funded, nursing homes could stand to receive an additional $100 million in Medicaid funds this year, when the $30 million in state general funds are matched with federal dollars. The $100 million boost would be a 5 percent increase from the $2 billion in Medicaid funds the homes expect to receive this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Samuel said the funding for nursing homes would come from a $5.6 billion COVID-19 supplemental budget request Whitmer proposed last month. Republican-controlled state House and Senate committees have approved scaled-down relief packages.

“Late last week we started speaking with key legislators, (the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) and the governor. We don’t don’t have any solid commitments, and we have more calls this week, but everybody understands the need in the current year,” Samuel said.

According to a statement Thursday from the governor’s press office, Whitmer’s proposal already includes $42 million for nursing home COVID-19 supplemental payments, including a one-time payment to nursing homes to address lost revenue from reduced bed occupancy during the ongoing COVID-19 emergency.

“Governor Whitmer has put forward a budget proposal to support the incredible work that frontline health care professionals are doing to save lives and beat the pandemic,” said the statement. “The budget includes additional resources towards vaccines, testing, a wage increase for direct care workers and more.”

In the statement. the Whitmer administration offered to work with anyone who is committed to negotiating in good faith.

“Gov. Whitmer remains committed to protecting seniors and keeping them safe throughout this public health crisis,” the statement said.

In a Wednesday livestreamed press conference, Whitmer again asked the Legislature to pass her $5.6 billion COVID-19 economic recovery proposal. The funding plan contains $5 billion in federal aid that Congress appropriated for Michigan eight weeks ago.

Over the past several weeks, the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature have been at odds over how to spend the federal aid. Lawmakers have insisted she surrender some of the state health department’s powers to shutdown businesses and limit crowd sizes and capacities as a mean of controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Whitmer has refused to concede any of those executive powers.

Earlier this month, a Michigan House committee approved a $3.5 billion package, which includes $510 million for food assistance programs, a new $416 million business grant program, $362 million in incentives for schools to offer in-person classes, $144 million for additional COVID-19 testing, and $22 million for COVID-19 vaccine efforts.

Two weeks ago, a Michigan Senate committee approved a $2 billion COVID-19 relief plan that is tied with a school funding proposal, a tactic that Democratic lawmakers criticized.

The Senate committee COVID-19 plan includes $110 million in additional support for vaccine distribution, $170 million for direct care workers at hospitals and nursing homes, $220 million in emergency rental assistance and $25 million for mental health services and substance abuse prevention.

Whitmer’s package includes more funding for all categories, including $2.1 billion in food assistance, $2 billion for education, $661 in rental and utility bill assistance, $575 million for additional testing and contact tracing, $270 million for small businesses and $90 million for vaccinate distribution efforts.