Opinion: Nursing homes get a break


September 8, 2023

Before last session even began, we knew our nursing homes were overwhelmed with a massive crisis: 15 percent of nursing homes statewide had exhausted their financial reserves, and 10 percent were considering closure. Outside of the Twin Cities area, those numbers were much worse: 17 percent of the homes had no financial reserve and 12 percent were considering closure. With about 350 nursing homes in the state, that put 60 nursing homes without reserves, and 41 considering closure.

This crisis was created from the combination of raging inflation and delayed government payments, delivered months after services had been given. Due to the strain of staffing shortages, many of the homes that were able to remain open were still forced to limit the patients they could care for in their facilities. There’s no doubt about it, they were on a cliff with no lifeline to speak of.

Luckily, nursing homes across the state are finally seeing the result of work done during the last legislative session. Senate Republicans fought for a $300 million deal to help nursing homes amidst this historic crisis. The agreement included direct grants, facility rate increases, and a workforce incentive fund that equated to about $1.1 million for every nursing home in the state. The homes that were previously left without a lifeline are now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Though staffing shortages and bed shortages were affecting all homes throughout the state, our rural facilities were taking the biggest hit.

Because of the legislative deal, six homes in District 11 will be receiving critical funding: Community Memorial Hospital [Sunnyside Care Center] in Cloquet, Inter-Faith Care Center in Carlton, Moose Lake Village, Sandstone Health Care Center, St. Clare Living Community of Mora, and The Estates at Rush City. These locations received one payment at the start of August with plans to receive an identical payment in August 2024. Each facility is receiving $225,000, plus an additional $4,000 for each active bed they operate.

I’m hopeful that this means families with loved ones that need extra care will be able to find a nursing home in their area, without having to travel across the state to find care for their loved ones.

Though this news is comforting, the road to get this funding was not easy. Senate Republicans fought to make this issue a priority. These are the homes that take care of our most vulnerable, our seniors, and their families rely on these homes. These homes and their staff are valued for the services they provide, and we should have helped them at the first signs of distress. I found it incredibly disheartening that this crisis was used as a bargaining chip, when it should have been a bipartisan effort to help our Minnesota families from the start.

While I am relieved to see our homes getting the aid they need, we know this isn’t enough. This is not a long-term solution. These homes will not find stability unless there is a permanent fix to the Medicare reimbursement system. I am hopeful that this will help families keep vulnerable loved ones close by as they receive care, but I also know that this is an issue that will need revisiting. These homes do so much for our families, and it is incredibly important that we continue supporting their efforts.

Sen Jason Rarick represents District 11 in the Minnesota Legislature, which includes all of Carlton County.


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