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OAHCP: Medicaid Cuts Represent a Catastrophe for Oklahoma Seniors and Nursing Home Facilities
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

OAHCP: Medicaid Cuts Represent a Catastrophe for Oklahoma Seniors and Nursing Home Facilities

The Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers, in response to an announcement that Medicaid reimbursement rates would be reduced by 25%, said the cuts would create a crisis for Oklahoma seniors and threaten to completely dismantle the state’s network of nursing homes. The 25% rate cut was announced by Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez earlier today.


Data from the OAHCP, which represents Oklahoma’s skilled nursing facilities, predicted that a 25% cut would leave 269 of the state’s 289 facilities in danger of closing. Approximately 16,800 vulnerable seniors and patients would be at risk of being displaced.


“The proposed cuts would essentially gut the profession that cares for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Tandie Hastings, OAHCP board president. “At a 25 percent cut, 93 percent of our facilities will be operating at a loss every single day. That is unsustainable and the result will be mass closure of nursing homes. When that happens, a lot of seniors and disabled individuals will be out of options for receiving care.


“We understand the state is currently facing a budget crisis, but there has to be a way to balance the budget without depriving Oklahoma seniors of medical care or closing the homes where they have chosen to live out the last chapter of their lives,” said Hastings.


OAHCP also estimates a 25 percent Medicaid rate cut would have a significant and devastating impact to local economies, especially in rural areas where nursing facilities are sometimes the largest source of employment. The proposed cut would jeopardize 16,900 jobs and $495 million in wages.


“At a time when our state economy is already struggling, we are now talking about a sucker punch for rural Oklahoma and the working class families that make up the backbone of this profession,” said Hastings.


The OAHCP predicts that, even with no cuts, the state’s very low Medicaid reimbursement rates will lead to significant closure of facilities, displacement of seniors, and thousands of job losses. As cuts increase, those losses reach a crisis level.


Unlike many other professions, nursing homes are highly regulated and unable to cut costs because of federally mandated minimum staffing ratios and standards of care. This leaves many nursing homes with no other option other than to close their facilities in the face of large budget cuts.


Cuts Would Cripple Access to Care for Rural Communities

In addition to the immediate threat of displacement to current nursing facility residents, a 25 percent Medicaid reimbursement rate cut would also permanently reduce access to care, especially in rural communities.


Many nursing facilities operate alone in their communities, meaning residents would have to travel long distances to find care.


Brett Coble, operator of Westbrook Facility in Waurika, Oklahoma, said his facility was the only long term care provider in Jefferson County.


“These rate cuts mean my facility would be at serious risk of closure,” said Coble. “If we shut down, that means my residents, whose friends and family are mostly in Waurika, would have to leave the county to receive care. It probably means less visits from friends and loved ones. That’s a terrible thing to do to people at this late point in their lives. Furthermore, you are creating a permanent problem for the community, which no longer has a location where people can receive long term care.”