Nursing homes and the people they serve received a much needed financial boost when $13.1 million of combined state and federal matching funds were released. MaineCare is forced to operate with annual budget holes — sometimes in the $100-million range — and it’s the care providers and those they serve who are most threatened. Although this action does not cure the problem, it does provide welcome relief before more nursing homes around the state are forced to close.
Funding health care isn’t a problem unique to Maine. As a nation, we must become less reliant on taxpayer-funded programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and encourage the growth of private-pay options to fund long-term care costs. For example, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and federal government spend $2.4 billion annually to cover the nearly 30 percent of our population on Medicaid, which pays for about 67 percent of all nursing home residents.
It was a smart move to release $4.6 million of surplus Medicaid dollars to receive $8.5 million in matching federal funds. But the long term problem for MaineCare is the fact that there is a persistent budget shortfall. More than any other form of health care, nursing homes are asked to do more with less. But as evidenced with the closings of nursing homes in Lubec and Pittsfield, everything has its limits. Short-term fixes are welcome, but the bigger problem still looms overhead.
Chris Orestis, CEO – Life Care Funding