Some South Dakota lawmakers want to loosen regulations on nursing home beds. One measure allows nursing homes to move certain beds within organizations or sell them. A split committee in the State House is sending the legislation to the full chamber.
Lawmakers in Pierre are trying to address challenges in long-term care with legislation like House Bill 1003. State Representative Wayne Steinhauer says nursing homes need flexibility to move beds to different areas to best serve the elderly.
"One of the very first questions you’re asked when you’re trying to find a bed for a loved one is, ‘How are you going to be paying for the bed?’" Steinauer says. "Well, if you’re on Medicaid, again with about an 80 percent reimbursement rate, nursing homes, and I fully respect this, will have their own financial pro forma that tells them, ‘we can maybe only have 60 percent of our beds or 50 percent of our beds paid for by Medicaid. If we have too many more than that, we’ll go out of business.'"
Steinhauer says selling or transferring beds allows organizations to tailor long-term care to communities instead of denying Medicaid patients because the business needs people who private pay at a higher rate.
The State caps the number nursing home beds in South Dakota at more than 8,000, and health officials say the facilities are 87 percent full. Supporters say the state has enough beds – they’re just in the wrong places.
Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon agrees. She says state leaders approve projects in targeted areas to align beds with future demand.
She opposes House Bill 1003 because she says nursing home beds are not commodities.
"There was never a conveyance of value when the moratorium was set, and we don’t think it’s appropriate to allow for nursing home beds to be sold for profit," Malsam-Rysdon says.
Both sides cite North Dakota as the example of a state that allows nursing homes to buy and sell beds.
Members of the State House Health and Human Services committee approve the bill that allows nursing homes to transfer and sell beds by a vote of eight to five. Now all State Representatives in the House can vote on House Bill 1003.