Senate president wants to boost nursing home payments

By News Service of Florida

Senate President Joe Negron said Friday he thinks Florida's nursing homes should be paid more for providing care to the state's elder and frail residents.

In an interview with The News Service of Florida, Negron, R-Stuart, said increasing Medicaid rates paid to nursing homes is a “very strong priority” of his for the upcoming legislative session.

“I do support an increase in their overall reimbursement. I have always been a strong supporter of nursing homes,” he said.

Negron didn't disclose how much additional funding he would like to direct to the rates.

Steve Bahmer, president and CEO of the industry group LeadingAge Florida, said rates paid to providers are “relatively low relative to the costs of providing care.

Certainly, we are going to support the president's priority to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates.”

He said additional funding could also help act as a buffer as the state moves away from its longtime cost-based reimbursement system and toward a new prospective-payment system.

“It certainly could be an opportunity to ensure that the transition goes off (smoothly),” he said.

The Legislature authorized the new payment system but delayed implementation until 2018. Under a prospective-payment system, the state sets a predetermined rate in advance that the providers will be paid.

Under a cost-based system, the state pays nursing homes based on their cost reports. This is not the first time Negron has made a nursing-home issue a top priority during his Senate presidency.

Negron last year tried unsuccessfully to carve out nursing homes from the state's mandatory Medicaid managed-care program, arguing that for certain residents, such as those who are too frail to return to living independently, managed care is not a cost saver.

But the House of Representatives refused to go along with the proposal.

Negron also said Friday he supports helping offset the costs of generators that nursing homes would be required to purchase under a proposed rule being pushed by Gov. Rick Scott.

According to the state Agency for Health Care Administration, it could cost the industry upward of $186 million to come into compliance with the proposed rule.

News Service of Florida