Eleven Montana nursing homes announced closures in 2022, with officials citing staffing shortages and low Medicaid reimbursement rates as the primary reasons for the industry’s ongoing struggles.
Lawmakers will debate raising reimbursement rates for nursing homes and many other types of health providers after a state-commissioned study found they were too low to cover the cost of care.
“Increasing provider rates at the study’s recommended level will ensure a strong healthcare workforce and should be a priority for this legislature,” said Heather O’Loughlin, executive director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center, a nonprofit organization that analyzes the state budget, taxes, and economy.
Gianforte’s budget proposal includes reimbursement rate increases that fall short of what the study recommends. A bill by Rep. Mary Caferro (D-Helena) would base provider rates on the study’s findings.
Federal rules dictated that anybody enrolled in Medicaid could not be dropped from the program during the public health emergency. But the omnibus spending bill recently passed by Congress allows states to begin reviewing the eligibility of their beneficiaries in April, and millions of people across the U.S. are at risk of losing coverage as a result.
“That will have an inherent outcome of removing people who qualified for Medicaid but because of this process being so complicated, they’ll lose it,” Caferro said.
Caferro said she plans to introduce legislation that restores 12-month continuous eligibility for adults enrolled in Montana Medicaid. The measure is likely to be opposed by legislative Republicans and Gianforte, who co-signed a letter to President Joe Biden in December saying the public health emergency had artificially expanded the Medicaid population.