Piles of one dollar bills

Some county commissioners in Minnesota are taking an unusual approach to supporting rural nursing homes: a resolution aimed at state lawmakers saying that “seniors will be denied care” if more funds aren’t made available. 

Brown County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution last Wednesday asking state lawmakers to spend $1 billion over the next four years to alleviate the workforce crisis that is disproportionately hitting rural nursing homes. The commissioners also want to see wages for caregiving start at $22 per hour, according to a report in the New Ulm Journal.

The administrator of a 94-bed skilled nursing facility said it has an admissions’ wait list of about 200 people and declined to admit 240 seniors last year, explaining that they are just now receiving reimbursement for 2020 expenses. In addition, Medicaid is reimbursing 80% of care costs, The New Ulm Journal reported. 

“The state sets Medicaid rates that don’t keep up with expenses,” said Oak Hills Living Center Administrator Candas Schouvieller. “We’re in crisis. Lots of nursing homes will close if there is no support from the government.”

Brown County is located in the southwest part of Minnesota and has a population of just under 26,000, according to the 2020 US Census. The state has lost 15 nursing homes since 2019, including three last year, according to Care Providers of Minnesota and LeadingAge Minnesota. Seventy-eight percent of SNFs are limiting admissions, primarily due to staffing challenges, the advocacy groups added. 

 “Without local nursing homes, people will be ‘shipped off and their demise will be hastened,’” said the report in the New Ulm Journal, quoting a local family medicine specialist.

The Brown County resolution was sponsored by Commissioner Dave Borchert, who said the state “owes … our community” more resources for nursing homes, according to a local report.  He added that the workforce crisis and potential loss of facilities are the most significant issues he has seen since first being elected in 2017.