Association says Louisiana nursing homes will go bankrupt under proposed state budget

Health visitor and a senior woman during home visit. A nurse talking to an elderly woman.

BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Nursing Home Association has issued a dire warning for the “doomsday” budget pending in the Legislature: If lawmakers don’t act to stop the devastating cuts to health care, more than 30,000 nursing home residents will lose their health care and nursing homes will go bankrupt.

State Department of Health officials have said they will send out warning letters this week to the 37,000 people who would lose their Medicaid coverage under the current budget proposal. If the budget is passed and the cuts go into effect, they would lose their Medicaid starting July 1.

The budget passed by the House is still pending in the Senate and includes massive cuts to health care statewide. The cuts are in response to a budget shortfall that’s somewhere between $550 million and $650 million.

In Lafayette, the city’s only safety net hospital has threatened to close if the current budget is finalized. Lafayette General, the hospital that operates the charity hospital, sent notices to 800 workers warning them that their jobs are in jeopardy.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has asked lawmakers to end the legislative session early and convene a special session so the Legislature can pass taxes that would fill the budget gap. House and Senate leaders have said they are open to the idea, but haven’t made any specific plans or announcements.

Here’s the full statement from the Louisiana Nursing Home Association:

Residents who have Alzheimer’s, dementia and other chronic illnesses will soon be forced from nursing facilities and onto the street if the proposed state budget is approved. The current budget includes a devastating cut that eliminates the Medicaid Long Term Care Special Income Level Program Eligibility Group, which provides healthcare services for 80% of Medicaid nursing facility residents. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, 31,000 nursing facility residents were included in the program last year. This is not a sensible solution to Louisiana’s budgetary issues.

If legislators on both sides of the aisle do not do something soon, on July 1, 2018, tens of thousands of Louisianans will no longer qualify for healthcare services and will be forced out of their nursing facilities overnight, leaving their families to scramble to find a suitable, affordable place to live and receive the vital healthcare services they need to continue to live with grace and dignity.

These individuals are retired school teachers and various other trades and professions who paid taxes and receive a social security check or some other form of retirement and will no longer qualify for Medicaid. And this does not just affect nursing facilities. By no longer qualifying for Medicaid, these individuals will not receive health care services in any long-term care setting, which includes home- and community-based services.

This cut has a ripple effect that spans to tens of thousands of Louisianans and businesses. If this program is eliminated, nursing facilities will be forced into bankruptcy, which will trigger a massive layoff statewide including the approximately 26,000 people employed by Louisiana’s nursing facilities. With the nursing facilities bankrupt, hospitals will have no place to discharge patients.

If this doomsday budget goes into effect, communities throughout the state will suffer as local nursing facilities are often the largest employer in the area and pay local taxes that would need to be recouped from other sources. Nursing facilities also purchase supplies from small businesses and contract with countless tradespeople and professionals who would face a similar demise.

Restoring the funds from this unconscionable cut is not about political parties. It is about making the right decision on behalf of our community members, the hardworking Louisianans who paid their taxes and have been productive members of the community but need our help due to declining health and aging.

We cannot allow the Medicaid Long Term Care Special Income Level Program Eligibility Group to be eliminated in a desperate effort to balance the budget at any cost. Louisianans must stand together and do the right thing – protect Louisiana’s elderly.