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Gov. Pete Ricketts has placed Nebraska’s aging population at risk

LINCOLN, NE – Sen. Bob Krist, candidate for Nebraska governor, said today that Gov. Pete Ricketts has placed Nebraska’s aging population at risk because of his cuts to skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.

“Since taking office, Gov. Ricketts has insisted on extreme budget cuts for health care services for our most vulnerable, including those for skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. He was warned by legislators and the professionals who care for our aging population that those cuts would result in dangerous risks to our most vulnerable aging population,” Krist said.
The cuts include tens of millions of dollars in reductions to vital health care services – as well as over $58 million in cuts to provider rates – in just the past two years.

Just last week, Courtney Phillips, the CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, appointed by Governor Ricketts, said: “The governor’s budget did not negatively impact nursing homes.”

But a recent set of court orders, filed by Phillips’ department on behalf of the State, placed 21 nursing facilities and 10 assisted living facilities across 19 Nebraska counties into receivership. According to court documents, the State of Nebraska determined this was necessary because “an emergency exists involving an imminent danger of physical harm to the residents or patients.”  In describing the state of the facilities, the receivership was necessary because the facilities did not have “funds to meet operating expenses, including payroll.”
In sworn affidavits provided by Daniel Taylor, the Interim Program Manager of the Long-Term Care Office of DHHS, he was concerned whether “employees will or can continue to work” at the facilities “when they are not being paid for their services.” The services described as at risk include basics of “feeding, bathing, helping residents use the bathroom, dressing, disbursing medication, administering health aids and cleaning.”
“When facilities are placing residents in imminent danger of physical harm, they are unable to pay their employees, and there is concern weather basic services can be provided – I believe most Nebraskans would disagree with Gov. Ricketts and his appointee that nursing homes were not negatively impacted,” Krist said.
This is not the first instance of this during Ricketts term. Heath Boddy, President of the Nebraska Health Care Association, told media outlets recently that “25 other facilities in the state have gone out of business since 2015,” and that he “believes a lack of Medicaid funding is a big part of the problem.”
“The Governor simply does not get it or does not care. He issued a line-item veto that resulted in Medicaid provider rate cuts across the board that directly impacted healthcare providers and the health care services of the most fragile of our senior population,” Krist said.
In a passionate speech on the floor of the Legislature urging his colleagues to overturn the governor’s veto to override those cuts, Krist said the resulting financial loss by those senior facilities is not sustainable.
“Currently, 53 percent of nursing facility residents and 25 percent of assisted living residents in Nebraska rely on Medicaid funding for the care they receive. Medicaid pays an average of $25 less than the cost of care per day, per resident. Yet the governor, who claims to have a business background, ignores the facts and said no to the needed funding to keep the facilities in business. That is completely out of touch with the average Nebraskan,” Krist said.
“Government’s first duty is to provide for those that can't provide for themselves. The governor simply does not understand. It’s shameful. We can do better,” Krist said.
“Ms. Phillips and her boss are simply wrong. Facilities will continue to be at risk unless Medicaid reimbursement for seniors is a priority in our state budget,” Krist said.
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