Gov. Pete Ricketts disputes allegations levelled by Democrat Bob Krist that his budget cuts have undermined the financial health of Nebraska nursing homes.
Ricketts rejects Krist’s accusation that budget cuts led to more than 30 nursing homes being placed into receivership.
“No, these are fabricated political attacks,” Ricketts responds when asked if his budget decisions led to the closings. “There’s no connection.”
Krist, a state senator from Omaha running for governor, made the accusations Wednesday during a news conference in Lincoln. Krist claims Ricketts has placed Nebraska’s aging population at risk, because of cuts to skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.
The claim that budget cuts harmed Nebraska nursing homes struck a nerve with the Ricketts campaign, which responded adamantly that the administration had not cut nursing home budgets. The Krist campaign refers to the Legislative Fiscal Office Report on the current biennium budget, which lists provider rate reductions for the Department of Health and Human Services aid programs of $29 million each year, a total of more than $58 million for the two-year state budget.
Also, Ricketts did use a line-item veto in 2017 to block an attempt by the legislature to provide an additional increase to providers.
Ricketts says, despite provider rate cuts in the current biennium, nursing home operators’ reimbursements have been held constant.
“We actually increased provider rates in our first two years,” Ricketts says. “We protected nursing homes. He (Krist) made the claim that these nursing homes had actually been closed. That was simply not true. So again, these are fabricated political attacks.”
That is the other bone of contention between the two camps. The Krist campaign links the governor’s budget with the announcement that the state placed 21 nursing homes and 10 assisted living facilities serving 19 Nebraska counties under receivership.
The Ricketts Administration says that action had nothing to do with the state budget. Skyline of New Jersey has closed nursing homes in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Kansas, and Arkansas as well as in Nebraska.
DHHS Medicaid Director Matthew Van Patton says dwindling populations forced the homes into receivership.
“The reason that some of those facilities closed were simply dictated by the fact that they just didn’t have the population to support those facilities from a full, operational standpoint,” Van Patton tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Van Patton says residents in the nursing homes affected have found residency elsewhere, either in neighboring nursing homes or through the acquisition of their nursing home by another operator.
Ricketts says the decision by Skyline to place homes into receivership doesn’t reflect the overall health of the industry.
“Now, there are other things going on in the marketplace, but if you look at nursing homes in the state it’s remained stable over the last several years.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]