Maine assisted living benefits cut

Posted Aug. 26, 2008, at 11:47 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — State funding cuts that affect about 120 assisted living facilities in Maine that care for 4,000 needy residents couldn’t have come at a worse time, the head of the Maine Health Care Association said.

MHCA president Richard Erb said the cutbacks, which took effect Aug. 1, stunned members of his organization. The association represents more than 300 providers of assisted living and residential care services as well as nursing care, rehabilitation and other services.

“This is probably one of the strongest reactions I have seen from our members to any policy change. It began with confusion and became mixed with frustration, and anger, I would have to say,” Erb said.

The state Department of Health and Human Services cut funding that was being paid to assisted living facilities’ operators to ensure that residents with illnesses would not lose their beds during periods of prolonged hospitalization.

Erb, who has been trying to help those facilities deal with rising fuel and food costs, said that when the Legislature adjourned in April, he understood that most bed-hold costs resulting from hospitalizations of up to 30 days would be reimbursed.

Erb told Maine Public Radio that he’s not aware that any of the 4,000 Mainers who live in the assisted living facilities classified by the state as private, nonmedical institutions will lose their beds as the result of the policy change.

However, he added that those facilities, known as PNMIs, are under a huge amount of pressure to retain staff while facing rising food and fuel costs. Erb said he questions whether some of the assisted living centers will be able to continue to hold residents’ beds as they face the potential loss of as much as $77 a day per patient that was formerly reimbursed.

DHHS Commissioner Brenda Harvey said the state has tried to help the assisted living centers by increasing payments by $1.52 per day per resident along with some boarding costs. Harvey said she had been under the impression that Medicaid would continue to reimburse the state for its bed-hold expenses.

Harvey said she will monitor the situation and report to the Legislature after it convenes for next year’s session.

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