Stakeholders near agreement on long-term care rate reform

Stakeholders near agreement on long-term care rate reform

Stakeholders are getting closer to an agreement on reforming how long-term care facilities are paid.

Medicaid Administrator Kelly Cunningham said Friday they have a “verbal agreement” on major points such as increasing staffing, improving infection control and enhancing the provider tax.

“I think we can all come together around issues around quality, improving staffing levels and maximizing resources to the profession through maximization of the nursing home assessment tax,” Cunningham said.

But while there’s a “conceptual agreement to improve the Medicaid reimbursement system,” Health Care Council of Illinois Executive Director Matt Pickering said they are “still ironing out many details.”

“We are hopeful we can come to a final agreement if all parties stay focused on our shared priority of doing what’s best for our residents,” he told Health News Illinois Monday.

Cunningham told members of the Medicaid Advisory Committee that the plan is to introduce the package during the spring legislative session set to start in January.

She said new money from a provider tax enhancement would be tied to staffing, which she said is a critical piece to ensure homes are providing the best services to residents.

Additionally, Cunningham said they are looking at boosting options for certified nursing assistants in nursing homes to help offset workforce issues exacerbated during the pandemic.

“We’re really trying to create career ladders and professionalize that work in the hopes of getting a good base of individuals in homes,” she said.

Matt Hartman, executive director of the Illinois Health Care Association, said some provisions discussed include directing additional funds toward CNAs with a certain amount of tenure.

He said the proposal will also cap how much staffing agencies can charge and address noncompete clauses that prevent facilities from hiring nurses contracted through staffing agencies.

The current proposed language does not address temporary nursing assistants, a since-expired program that helped accelerate training for nurse aides during the height of the pandemic, Hartman said.

The Senate’s Health Committee has scheduled a hearing for Monday morning on nursing home reform.

In other business, the Medicaid Advisory Committee voted for Ann Lundy to serve as its new chair. Lundy, who serves as chief operating officer at Access Community Health Network, will replace Dr. Cheryl Whitaker, who has chaired the committee since 2019.

“My commitment to all of you is to continue strengthening this foundation, especially and hopefully soon, we’ll be in a position where we’re recovering from the pandemic,” Lundy said.

Kathy Chan was elected as the committee’s new vice-chair.

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