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Medicaid reimbursement in focus as Elk Point nursing home closes

Some nursing homes and long-term-care facilities say they're struggling to fill shifts as certified nursing assistants opt for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
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Some nursing homes and long-term-care facilities say they're struggling to fill shifts as certified nursing assistants opt for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

Another nursing home in South Dakota will close.

Nursing home advocates point to Medicaid reimbursement as the main reason long-term care facilities’ doors are shutting.

The Prairie Estates Care Center in Elk Point will close Jan. 14. It’s the fifteenth nursing home facility to close in the last five years—the sixth in the 12 months.

A recent report shows the state is underfunding Medicaid reimbursements by $62.5 million. Medicaid covers 70 percent of costs. The report recommends a benchmark of around 90 percent. Fifty-five percent of nursing home residents rely on Medicaid to pay for care.

“My fear is if we don’t pick it up and come closer—if Medicaid can’t come closer to funding the cost of actual care we’re going to lose more nursing homes," said Mark Deak, executive director of the South Dakota Health Care Association.

Funding disparities are fueling other challenges, like staffing. Deak said nursing home staff statewide is down by 1,000 since before the pandemic started.

Republican State Senator Jean Hunhoff sits on the committee that sets the state budget. She said the legislature needs to address closures in the upcoming session.

Last session, state lawmakers figured out a way to get $30 million in one-time dollars to long-term care facilities, with an intent to find solutions to the problem. Hunhoff said that didn’t happen.

“I think they were struggling and just trying to meet the day to day,” Hunhoff said. “Those resources went for that. We need to be partners in this and we need to identify what is the vision. What kind of facilities to we need to meet the needs of our elderly as they’re needing more care.”

Republican Governor Kristi Noem will outline her funding priorities in the upcoming budget address on Dec. 6.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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