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State boosts funding for nursing homes by 15%.

Byline: Steve Metzer

OKLAHOMA CITY Money committed to the care of nursing home residents across the state will increase from an average of $150 per resident per day to $173, thanks to a new state budget approved by the Legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Funding included in Oklahoma's recently adopted fiscal year 2020 budget will amount to a 15% increase for facilities that care for residents on Medicare or Medicaid. A bill that passed this week in both chambers of the Legislature would attach certain performance measures as conditions for receiving some funds. A chief author of Senate Bill 280, Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, said goals are to improve the Sooner State's ranking in the nation for quality of care provided in nursing homes and also to provide some financial stability for struggling facilities, especially in the state's rural areas.

"We rank pretty low in the nation in quality of care provided to residents of nursing homes, so the essence of the bill was to establish a quality-of-care incentive for nursing homes," Simpson said.

The Nursing Home Quality Assurance Initiative, if signed into law by Stitt, should:

Improve quality of life by increasing a personal needs allowance for individual residents from $50 a month to $75.

Encourage facility investment in staffing, training and employee benefits to reduce turnover.

Increasing mandatory Alzheimer's/dementia training for clinical staff to a minimum of four hours annually.

Increase resident protection and advocacy with five additional ombudsmen to look into complaints or concerns raised about quality of care.

Ensure financial accountability for new funds.

Simpson said quality assurance measures attached to new funding and to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will incentivize facilities to monitor their performance related specifically to the care of pressure ulcers, urinary tract infections, use of antipsychotic medications and weight loss among residents.

"They have to meet certain metrics established by the (Oklahoma) Health Care Authority and be evaluated on those metrics," he said.

Nico Gomez, president and chief executive officer of Care Providers Oklahoma, which advocates on behalf of residents of the state's long-term care facilities, described as "historic" the new commitment to nursing home residents shown by the state this year.

"As far as the Medicaid program, in my 20-plus years in this sector I've never seen this level of funding commitment to our nursing homes," he said. "I think it's historic with its intent of saving rural nursing home infrastructure and allowing seniors in those areas to stay in their communities without leaving family and friends that they've lived with their whole life."

Advocate organizations for older Oklahomans supported the Nursing Home Quality Assurance Initiative. They included the Oklahoma chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, AARP Oklahoma, Care Providers Oklahoma, LeadingAge Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Alliance on Aging, the Oklahoma Nurses Association, the Oklahoma Silver-Haired Legislature Alumni Association, the Oklahoma State Council on Aging, and the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

They issued a joint statement: "We applaud our legislators for delivering a landmark reform, quality improvement and funding package that will dramatically increase the quality of care and quality of life for residents in Oklahoma's nursing homes. This is a tremendous victory for the elderly, for Oklahomans with disabilities and for their families."

The coalition offered special recognition to Simpson and also to House Speaker Charles McCall, Rep. Kevin Wallace, Rep. Marcus McEntire and Sen. Roger Thompson for sponsoring the legislation.

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Publication:Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)
Geographic Code:1U7OK
Date:May 23, 2019
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