Rural assisted living facilities receive a small Medicaid bump

April 4, 2024, 6 a.m. ·

A nursing facility's hallway leading to an exit with a door at the end.
(Archive photo by Pamela Thompson, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Assisted living facilities in rural Nebraska will see a small bump in funding for serving Medicaid patients.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen signed appropriations bill 1412 this week. Included in the budget, $1.5 million of American Rescue Plan funds will aid rural assisted living facilities.

Under the new law, all counties in Nebraska except Cass, Dakota, Dixon, Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy, Saunders, Seward, and Washington Counties are considered rural, according to the Nebraska Health Care Association.

Jalene Carpenter is the president and CEO of the NHCA. Caring for Medicaid patients costs the same in rural areas as in urban parts of the state, she said. But rural facilities are compensated less. These funds will close the gap, to a degree, Carpenter said.

“But we will be coming back next year looking, quite frankly, at the fact that the department’s own study indicated that this should be the appropriate rate,” Carpenter said. “So we’re just really looking to the Legislature to appropriate those dollars.”

In early February, Sen. Myron Dorn introduced two other bills, LB941 and LB942, which would have appropriated more than $29 million in state and federal funds for assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

LB941 would have allocated an assisted living increase for 2025, with $2.9 million in state general funds and $4.1 million in federal dollars, according to the Nebraska Health Care Association.

A nursing facility Medicaid boost, LB942, would have bumped rates by five percent in 2025 by using $9.3 million in general funds and $13.1 million from the feds.

Those bills haven’t made it out of committee.

Still, Carpenter said she’s encouraged by state senators and Gov. Jim Pillen acknowledging the challenges assisted living facilities are facing.

“This is definitely just a small step in the right direction,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said the NHCA hopes to garner more support from the governor and state senators next session for better Medicaid coverage for assisted living facilities and nursing homes.