Democratic lawmakers defended budget language earlier this week that said more money would go to union nursing homes than non-union nursing homes. But as it turns out, the formula will need to be changed.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management issued a statement Thursday saying “nursing home funding would need to be distributed based on a formula that treats all nursing homes equally as required under federal regulations and guidance.”
The budget language the legislature debated and passed earlier this week indicated that up to $9 million would go to 60 unionized nursing homes and up to $4 million would go to 170 non-union nursing homes.
Democratic lawmakers said SEIU 1199, the union representing the nursing home workers, was prepared to go on a strike earlier this year over wages. It postponed the strike to see if it got the necessary funds from the legislature for raises.
“We do not want any of our nursing homes to go on strike,” Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, said Tuesday during debate on the budget. “We want to make sure the people who are in our nursing homes are taken care of. We know that we do not pay employees of our nursing homes enough money so when we put the $13 million into the budget we wanted to make sure that it was allocated for direct care.”
Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, said no one can argue that the money is being allocated fairly.
“It strikes me as patently unfair that there’s discrimination against non-union nursing homes,” Wood said. “I think for the sake of everyone in this state we should be creating equity.”
Wood proposed an amendment that failed that would have required the $13 million to be distributed equally among union and non-union nursing homes.
Abercrombie said the Department of Social Services’ commissioner will adjust the rates each nursing home received based on the cost reports provided by the nursing homes.
The statement released Thursday by OPM says DSS will compile the allowable costs for all nursing homes, and the total allowable cost of the wage enhancement will be compared to the available funding.
Matthew Barrett, executive vice president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said the statement by the Office of Policy and Management “seems responsive” to the issues raised, “but it should be included in a more formal document.”
Barrett, whose association represents the 170 non-union nursing homes, warned Sunday before debate on the budget language that the formula would be considered illegal under federal law.
Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, said Thursday that when Democratic lawmakers passed the bill and defeated an amendment that would have created equality between the two types of nursing homes, they knew it violated federal law.
“I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so,” Kane said.
Democratic lawmakers ignored his analysis and defended the distribution of funds.