ctnewsjunkie file photo
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Republican Senators are calling on their Democratic colleagues to include Medicaid funding for nursing homes as part of a special session later this month.

Republican senators said in a letter Thursday that they want to work with Democrats to identify cuts and savings elsewhere in the budget to restore around $5.3 million in Medicaid funds.

As part of the state budget, the General Assembly and Gov. Ned Lamont approved language that allows the state to reduce Medicaid money to nursing homes that don’t maintain at least a 70% occupancy rate. State officials estimated that the new calculation would mean nearly $6 million would be withheld from the nine nursing homes this year.

Nursing home operators have said they would have to consider closing if they had to absorb such a steep cut.

“We need more than words. We can and we must restore this funding. We would like to work together to do so. People need to come before partisanship and politics,” Senate Republicans wrote Thursday in a letter to their colleagues.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the call for funding rings hollow.

“We appreciate the Republicans’ new interest in funding Medicaid for nursing homes after failing to offer a budget during the 2019 session. Offering an alternative budget would have provided them with an opportunity to forthrightly state their spending priorities in comparison with the adopted budget,” Looney said. “Instead they chose to publicly commit to no alternative appropriations while waiting in the weeds to selectively snipe at elements of the budget until the next election. We do remain open to good faith discussions on this and other issues.”

Medicaid funding for nursing homes is not a partisan issue.

Nursing homes like Kimberly Hall South in Windsor, which employs union labor, would be impacted. Democratic Senators Saud Anwar and Doug McCrory visited the home on Aug. 22 and pledged their support to residents.

Kimberly Hall, which is run by Genesis HealthCare, is licensed for 180 beds. But over the decades it has taken beds out of operation, leaving them with 131 currently, and instead added services such as a 30-bed dialysis clinic. The state Department of Social Services is basing Kimberly Hall’s occupancy rate — which impacts funding — on the facility’s licensed number of beds. If the occupancy rate was based on 131 beds instead of 180, Kimberly Hall would be at 74% occupied, rather than 53.8%. An occupancy rate of 74% would exceed the state’s stop-loss threshold of 70%, and as such maintain more Medicaid funding.

Matthew V. Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and Connecticut Center For Assisted Living, said there is every reason to believe a bipartisan consensus can be achieved without implementing the occupancy calculation.

Barrett said his association believes they can reduce the number of nursing home beds by 500 without the current change in calculation or displacing any residents or employees.

The hardship relief now being offered to the nine homes is just more evidence that the calculation the legislature adopted as part of the state budget is flawed, and should be repealed and replaced in a special legislative session, Barrett added.

Barrett said the nursing homes were unaware this occupancy penalty was coming and welcomed a conversation about what the right number of beds might look like. He said the industry supports “rightsizing,” at a time when more people prefer to receive care in their own homes.