South Dakota bans new nursing home construction

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South Dakota this year made permanent a 1988 new nursing home ban to reduce Medicaid spending and encourage less costly healthcare alternatives, such as assisted living facilities.

Since the temporary ban on nursing home construction was put into effect 17 years ago, the number of assisted living facilities has increased 1,200%. According to state officials, spending for long-term care has been cut by more than $225 million as a result of the measure.

The ban has left some parts of the state with no nursing homes and put rural nursing home residents, including American Indians, at great distances from their family members. Indian reservations are located in remote areas of the state.

South Dakota granted an exception to the ban in 2003, allowing construction of a new nursing home on an Indian reservation in Eagle Butte. Construction is set to begin soon. Only about 15 nursing homes exist on Indian reservations nationwide, according to Traci McClellan, executive director of the National Indian Council on Aging.