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Rural nursing homes seek equal treatment

Photo by Kevin Sweeney Oak Hills Funding Development Director Wendy Broderson spoke to the New Ulm Rotary Club Tuesday.

NEW ULM — Rural nursing homes battled during last year’s legislative session to get more funding out of the state legislature. The end-of-session allocation gave some relief to facilities in danger of going out of business, but didn’t address the long term inequities toward nursing homes in the state’s rural regions.

Candas Schouvieller, administrator of Oak Hills Living Center in New Ulm, and Wendy Broderson, Funding Development Director for Oak Hills, told Rotarians that rural nursing homes in Minnesota continue to struggle financially, in part because state policies that favor metropolitan area facilities.

Schouvieller explained that the state reimburses nursing homes for their Medicaid expenses after reviewing the nursing homes’ annual cost reports. It takes the state Department of Human Services 18 to 24 months to review rural nursing home reports, while metropolitan facilities’ reports are usually completed within a year. So Oak Hills is currently being reimbursed for its cost report from 2021. Meanwhile, costs since 2021 have been rising.

Rural nursing homes are reimbursed at a lower rate than metro nursing homes, Schouvieller said. The result has been that nursing homes in the outstate regions of Minnesota have been struggling and closing, at a time when the need for skilled long-term care is going to be growing.

Broderson highlighted the differences between assisted living care and nursing home care. Nursing homes provide around-the-clock skilled nursing care for those who need it, while assisted living centers serve people who can live more independently with a lower level of custodial care. While New Ulm has several different assisted living facilities, Oak Hills is the sole nursing home facility in the city. Broderson said that once a community loses a nursing home, state regulations make it very difficult to re-establish it or start another.

Oak Hills and its supporters were very active and vocal in lobbying efforts last year that helped legislators like Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls push extra funding for nursing homes through, overcoming the indifference of Democratic and metro area legislators.

Schouvieller said Oak Hills and other nursing homes will be active again this year, educating their communities about the needs of their hometown long-term care facilities, and contacting their legislators to provide a more equitable solution to their problems.

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