Twelve percent of Minnesota’s nursing homes are considering closing and 75% report not having enough licensed staff, according to a new survey released by industry advocates, hoping to sway legislators into committing more funds to the sector. 

The survey of LeadingAge Minnesota’s and Care Providers of Minnesota’s members paints a dire picture of facilities operating on shoe-string budgets and dwindling reserves. Twenty-three nursing facilities have closed their doors since 2019, including Pioneer Memorial Care Center in Erskine, which recently announced it would cease operations on June 12. 

But the dueling proposals passed by the state’s House and Senate chambers are less focused on nursing homes than on community-based care services and other healthcare priorities. Three lawmakers from each chamber have been appointed to a conference committee to hash out differences and present a conference bill that must be wrapped up by May 22, the end of the annual legislative session. 

“While we understand the challenges with establishing a new budget when much of the surplus is one-time money and not ongoing money, we know our members’ financial crisis will not be solved in the long term with one-time-only funds,” said Patti Cullen, president and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota. “We appreciate the intense deliberations underway right now at the Legislature to recognize the balance between quick fixes and sustainable solutions for our decimated profession.”

The Senate’s legislation does include significant funding for nursing homes — $74 million in the first biennium and $47.3 billion in the second biennium. Minnesota has a two-year budget cycle that starts July 1 of each odd-numbered year. The House bill does not include any new funding for nursing homes. An amendment that would have given nursing homes a $26 per patient day rate increase would have led to a $2 per hour raise for workers was not included in the final bill, according to a report in the Session Daily. Another amendment to use $231 million over four years for nursing facility grants was cut to $20 million. 

More concerning to advocates, neither bill addresses the 15- to 27-month delay before nursing homes receive reimbursement from the state for the cost of care, the associations said.

“It’s critical that senior services settings can pay caregivers a livable wage so we can recruit and retain the people to care for a growing population of seniors,” said Kari Thurlow, president and CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota. “The lack of direct funding for nursing homes in the House position tells a nursing home worker that they should wait until 2025 to earn a living wage instead of leaving the field today to work in fast food or retail.”

The membership survey, which was shared with lawmakers starting the last week of April, also found: 

•  2,597 beds in nursing facilities have closed or been placed on layaway since 2020.

•  Skilled nursing facilities are denying 450 admission referrals per day – an increase of 44% in nursing homes alone.

•  In greater Minnesota, 16.9% of nursing facilities have exhausted their reserves while another 38% are using their reserves but not close to draining them.

•  In the seven-county metro area, 12.5% of nursing facilities have exhausted their reserves.