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Another nursing home closes, this time in Armour

Health and Human Services

Another South Dakota nursing home is closing its doors. On Wednesday, Avantara announced the upcoming closure of its Armour nursing home.

Over 10 percent of nursing homes in South Dakota have closed their doors in the last five years, according to the South Dakota Health Care Association.

Underfunding of Medicaid, staffing shortages, and costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic are causing the closures, the association said.

State Sen. Wayne Steinhauer, R-Sioux Falls, chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. He said the focus on closures misses the additional problem of few available beds in the state's metropolitan areas.

"Take Lincoln and Minnehaha County that are exploding, population-wise, because the beds have to be licensed by the state and because of poor reimbursers' rates. No new nursing homes are being built where we need them. So there's a long waiting list in some parts of the state," Steinhauer said.

While Steinhauer isn't running for re-election, other legislators hope to address the problem of nursing home funding during the next legislative session in Pierre.

Rep. Ryan Cwach, D-Yankton, said the state has been talking about nursing home funding for decades, but it's time to set partisan politics aside and approach the issue with tangible solutions.

"Having discussions about new ideas, trying to develop some type of public-defined benefit for long-term care, is really the only way we're going to get out of this," Cwach said.

According to the South Dakota Health Care Association, South Dakota Medicaid reimbursement rates are below those of neighboring states — and 55% of nursing home residents rely on Medicaid to pay for their care.

Though, the association said the Medicaid expansion measure on the November general election ballot would not increase reimbursements for the elderly, and would therefore have little impact on nursing home closures.

Joshua is the business and economics reporter with SDPB News.