AUGUSTA, Maine — A group of lawmakers and industry insiders on Friday began its work to craft policy recommendations aimed at improving Maine’s long-term care facilities.
The group’s meeting Friday was its first. The Legislature endorsed creation of the panel last session. It is charged with studying several bills proposed in 2013, including calls to improve funding for nursing homes, establish staffing and regulatory requirements, and enhance reimbursement for facilities with lots of patients covered by MaineCare.
The Commission to Study Long-term Care Facilities will also examine the viability of privately owned facilities in rural communities and the impact of nursing home closures — such as the one that shook Calais in 2012 — on those rural populations.
Maine has the oldest population of any state in the country. There are 127 nursing homes here, and the state has the most high-acuity long-term care population in the nation, said Brenda Gallant, a member of the commission and executive director of the Maine Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.
The commission has its work cut out for it before delivering a final report to the Legislature in December. But it was clear from the beginning that each line of inquiry would eventually lead to the chief concern: money.
According to data provided to the committee, long-term care facilities in Maine were under-reimbursed by MaineCare to the tune of $29.4 million in 2011, the most recent year for which data was available.
Put another way, each long-term care facility loses an average of about $20 per day on MaineCare patients.
“With two-thirds of residents on MaineCare, you wonder how [the facilities] stay open,” said Richard Erb, commission member and director of Maine Health Care Association. “As long as the $20 gap per day is there, this won’t get better.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.