This budget season, Pa. needs to step up its support for seniors in nursing homes | Opinion

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By Anne Henry

Pennsylvania seniors who count on nursing facilities for their care deserve stronger support from the commonwealth in the upcoming 2019-20 fiscal budget.

Years and years of flat funding is catching up with a system that supports one of the largest 85 and over populations in the nation. Pennsylvania lawmakers can begin to fix this problem by increasing Medicaid funding by 2.8 percent in the upcoming budget.

It’s a small first step toward addressing chronic underfunding that has led nonprofits to struggle to keep qualified staff, attract new employees and invest in quality care.

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In 15 years, the commonwealth has averaged an annual increase of barely 1 percent in Medicaid funding.

During that time, the cost of providing nursing home care has increased nearly 33 percent.

Things have gotten so bad that Pennsylvania’s nursing homes suffered a Medicaid funding shortfall of more than $631 million in 2017-2018, according to a Medicaid Funding Gap Analysis commissioned by LeadingAge PA. A 2.8 percent increase would provide $47 million in state funds (a good first step) and should be placed directly into Medicaid rates to ensure every nursing facility in Pennsylvania receives additional funding.

State lawmakers are truly a partner with Pennsylvania’s nursing facilities because they determine how much Medicaid funding is provided at a time when more and more seniors rely on Medicaid for their care. It’s a partnership that deserves their long overdue attention.

Anne Henry is the Senior Vice President and Chief Government Affairs Officer of Leading Age PA. She writes from Mechanicsburg, Pa.

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