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Bipartisan effort to save nursing homes amid budget crunch

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Tracy nursing home
A nursing home in Tracy, Minn.
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

Long-term care advocates say Minnesota nursing homes could lose nearly $32 million under Gov. Tim Pawlenty's recent proposal to fix the state budget deficit. 

They claim the quality of care in those facilities is in jeopardy, and jobs statewide are at risk. 

Republicans in the Minnesota House are opposing part of Pawlenty's budget-balancing plan that would reduce funding for nursing homes.

Minority Leader Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Duluth, said nursing homes need a cost of living adjustment after being shortchanged last session. 

Seifert is proposing a 2.25 percent funding increase for nursing homes and other long-term care providers. He said the estimated cost of up to $30 million could be covered through a surplus in the state's Health Care Access Fund.

Marty Seifert
State. Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

"I think for someone to say that nursing homes aren't health care is ludicrous," Seifert said. "Obviously they are health care. It's one of the highest priorities that most people in Minnesota believe in. And certainly we want to be part of a cooperative spirit in the Legislature to see this happen."

Democrats are also trying to protect nursing homes, but they'll likely oppose a plan that taps the Health Care Access Fund. Governor Pawlenty has already proposed using part of the fund's surplus in his bigger plan to close the projected $935 million hole in the state budget. 

During a Capitol news conference, Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth, said she is pushing to get a 3 percent increase for all long-term care providers. 

"Our seniors and the people who care for them cannot be expected to be put on hold to continue to wait and bear the brunt of the funding cuts," she said.