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Critics say long-term care rules could suffocate rural nursing homes

The Biden Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have some ambitious goals – but they aren’t a slam dunk with everyone. Fifteen governors and the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations are raising concerns.

One proposal, which would require a minimum number of nursing care hours daily and would require a registered nurse on staff 24/7, would lead to more nursing home closures according the SDAHO.

Tammy Hatting is COO with the group. She said facing cold facts, some proposals just aren’t realistic.

“Seventy-five percent of nursing homes in the United States will not be able to meet this mandate they are proposing," Hatting said. "Being a rural state, the one problem we have is the requirement every nursing home will need to have 24/7 RN coverage. For some of our small towns with nursing homes that would be nearly impossible to staff 24/7 RN.

In South Dakota, 18 nursing homes, from Custer to Clear Lake and everywhere in between, have closed since 2015.

Hatting said this proposal wouldn’t help that.

“Our main recommendation is that an unfunded mandate will not improve quality, but that we should look at the current system in place and see what we can do to enhance the workforce and try to shine more light on the work that workers do in nursing homes today,” Hatting said.

Hatting said more stringent regulations will suffocate an already resource-strapped industry.

“Recruitment and retention is going to be even more difficult now, and many of our nursing homes today rely on expensive travel staff to fill staff," Hatting said "That will become an even greater issue down the road if these mandates with these ratios go through.”

Gov. Kristi Noem recently joined 14 other Republican governors in sending a letter to the Biden administration officially opposing the proposal.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture