Oak Hills group travels to capitol with old request and 2 new requests

Members of Oak Hills Living Center staff and board prepare for another trip to the Capitol in St. Paul to request fixes to the Medicaid reimbursement delays for rural nursing homes, as well as to request funding for two pilot programs. (L to R) Carolyn Varland, Candas Schouviller, Dr. Ann Vogel, Izzy Wittbrodt, Pat Booker, Connie Grams, Michael Boyle and Anna MacHolder.

NEW ULM – A convoy of Oak Hills Living Center representatives departed for the Capitol in St. Paul, on Monday morning to once again discuss delinquent Medicaid reimbursements with legislators.

The convoy included Oak Hills administrator Candas Schouvieller; Oak Hills board members Dr. Ann Vogel, Pat Booker, and Michael Boyle; Registered Nurses (RN) Connie Grams and Carolyn Varland; and Oak Hills staff members Izzy Wittbrodt and Infection Control RN Anna MacHolder. The group would also be joined by New Ulm Business Resource and Innovation Center (NUBRIC) Director Paul Wessel at the capitol.

This is Oak Hills’ second organized trip to the state capitol in 2024 and the fifth trip since Jan. 2023.

The goal of each trip was to urge legislators to fix the reimbursement delays to rural nursing homes. However, on this trip, the group had an additional ask of legislators.

“We want to be a regional site for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) training,” said Oak Hills administrator Candas Schouvieller.

For years, staffing at nursing homes has been a struggle. Oak Hills hopes to create a pilot program to train CNAs to help alleviate the demand for skilled nursing in rural Minnesota.

Oak Hills Board Member, Dr. Anne Vogel said to start the pilot program, Oak Hills will need additional money. She estimated the program could cost up to $500,000.

Vogel said in addition to the CNA training program, the group intends to ask about starting a Scanalytics pilot program at Oak Hills. Scanalytics is a patented smart flooring technology that tracks foot traffic in a space. The technology could be used to manage occupancy to controls and security. It could also monitor if an individual has fallen. This technology could be valuable for a senior care facility.

Vogel said the group will be taking these pilot program requests directly to State Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar.

Vogel said Zeleznikar represents northern Minnesota, but previously worked as a nursing home administrator and has shown a willingness to fix problems with the state’s reimbursement system.

“She understands the struggles skilled nursing homes like Oak Hills face,” Vogel said. “She understands that rural nursing homes are in a bad position.”

Minnesota is required to reimburse nursing homes for their Medicaid expenses after reviewing the nursing homes’ annual cost reports. However, Oak Hills and other rural nursing homes have found it is taking 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.

This means Oak Hills is being reimbursed for costs incurred in 2022. Due to inflation, expenses have gone up since 2022, forcing rural nursing homes to operate in greater debt. 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.

The concern is rural nursing homes could continue to close if the state continues to prioritize metro nursing home reimbursement over those in Greater Minnesota.


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