Arkansas Medicaid program does not have to reimburse for nursing school costs, court rules

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The cost of sending a current nursing home employee to nursing school is not reimbursable under the state Medicaid program, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled.

Northport Health Services of Arkansas filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Human Services arguing that the tuition and fees it paid to send employees to nursing school should be reimbursable through Medicaid. The facility said the nursing school fees constitute direct training costs, and that the school option is available to all its employees as a fringe benefit, both of which qualify the program for Medicaid reimbursement under the DHS's manual of cost reimbursement rules for long-term care facilities. In a Dec 10. ruling, the Arkansas Supreme Court shot down that argument.

The DHS manual asserts that reimbursable training costs must be related to an employee's current duties, according to the court. Nursing school is geared toward gaining certification for new, future positions, and therefore does not qualify, according to the court. Also, because Northport did not make the nursing school program available to all interested employees, it violated a nondiscrimination clause laid out in the reimbursement manual, nullifying fringe benefit claims, the court ruled.