“They don’t care,” Nursing home residents, staff challenging proposed Oklahoma Medicaid cuts

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OKLAHOMA - One letter at a time, residents and staff at South Pointe Rehab and Care Center are sending a message to the legislature.

The letters are demanding the legislature find a way to fund health care without shutting down most of the nursing homes in the state.

“We are already operating at a loss every day in taking care of our Medicaid recipients,” said Genia Manion, administrator at South Pointe Rehab and Care Center.

Right now, the states plan is to cut Medicaid reimbursement payments by 25 percent.

“So, the impact in a month will be 200,000 for this facility,” Manion said. “We are the largest facility in the state of Oklahoma. We have 172 Medicaid recipients. Our current rate is $146 a day that will take us down to 110."

With that type of cut, she said they can’t provide the level of care required to keep the doors open, meaning residents like Rochelle Stovall would have to find somewhere else to live.

“I’d have to leave the state, and I love Oklahoma,” Stovall said.

Rochelle became a resident at South Pointe Rehab and Care Center after complications from surgery two years ago.

“When the blood clot cleared up, I was paralyzed, and I couldn’t move from the waist down, and I’ve been here since,” she said.

The thought of leaving is too much.

She considers the other residents and staff here family.

She said she can’t understand why making cuts to Medicaid is even on the table.

“How can you possibly care when you know there are people who have nowhere to go?” she said.

It’s the same reality for the vast majority of nursing homes in the state.

The Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers board president Tandie Hastings said the proposed cuts would essentially gut the profession that cares for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens.

"At a 25 percent cut, 93 percent of our facilities will be operating at a loss every single day. That is unsustainable and the result will be mass closure of nursing homes. When that happens, a lot of seniors and disabled individuals will be out of options for receiving care.
 
We understand the state is currently facing a budget crisis, but there has to be a way to balance the budget without depriving Oklahoma seniors of medical care or closing the homes where they have chosen to live out the last chapter of their lives."
 
OAHCP also estimates a 25 percent Medicaid rate cut would have a significant and devastating impact to local economies, especially in rural areas where nursing facilities are sometimes the largest source of employment. The proposed cut would jeopardize 16,900 jobs and $495 million in wages.
 
At a time when our state economy is already struggling, we are now talking about a sucker punch for rural Oklahoma and the working class families that make up the backbone of this profession."
 

How big or how small the cut is going to depend on the legislature and what funding it gives to the healthcare authority.

Right now, providers are being told to anticipate a 25 percent cut.

But, even if legislature comes back with enough money and there is no cut to Medicaid, that won’t solve the problem.

Officials with the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers said the nursing home industry is so underfunded there will be closures even if there is not a rate cut.

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