Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano (R-34) and Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-21), ranking member of the Aging Committee, joined forces in criticizing Medicaid cuts contained in the state budget that put nine Connecticut nursing homes at risk of closure.

The policy change, contained in the Democratic state budget approved this spring, eliminates stop loss protections for nursing homes that don’t meet certain federal measures or that have an occupancy level of less than 70 percent, according to the two Republican lawmakers, resulting in dramatic cuts to the discounted Medicaid reimbursement rates, they say. Notifications were sent last week to the nine nursing homes affected.

On Wednesday, Aug. 14, the Office of Policy and Management held a briefing with lawmakers about this policy.

“Connecticut Democrats are putting the most vulnerable seniors at risk just to balance their budget. They are putting money over people,” said Fasano and Kelly in a joint statement.

“Skilled nursing facilities have only received a 1 percent Medicaid rate increase over the last 14 years and already struggle to stay in operation when caring for a large percentage of Medicaid patients,” stated the lawmakers. “Cutting funding further could cause skilled nursing facilities to shut down, potentially pushing people into unregulated facilities. Aging in place is the best way for seniors to live comfortably as they age. However, nursing facilities also have an important place in the continuum of care. They are a needed resource, especially for the chronically frail. This policy disregards the serious and traumatic consequences closures would have on vulnerable nursing home residents including persons with dementia.”

The Republican senators called the strategy of penalizing facilities through Medicaid reimbursement reductions ineffective in keeping residents safe and offering the highest quality of care.

“We absolutely need to hold nursing homes accountable to ensure safety and quality care. But this policy puts money before patients. It is discouraging nursing home facilities from caring for the most vulnerable, all just to free up money to spend elsewhere in the budget. There are already procedures in place to hold nursing homes accountable when they make errors. This policy does not enhance that system. It just makes it harder for facilities to improve and offer care to patients with more complex issues. The federal quality measure scores used to determine who is penalized are not Connecticut centric measures. They do not properly account for patients’ acuity levels or comorbidities. A facility that cares for individuals with more critical care needs could receive a misleading negative score, reducing health care access because of a patient’s preexisting conditions. Occupancy levels also should be looked at on a case by case basis as many large facilities keep beds open to hold on to their capacity as the Connecticut senior population is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

“Democrats constantly talk about their desire to improve health care and human services. But when it comes to seniors, their actions tell a different story. Connecticut Democrats voted against increasing the personal needs allowance for seniors in nursing home facilities. They closed entrance to the Connecticut Home Care Program. They have not prioritized Aging in Place services at the same time they are now seeking to shut down facilities people rely upon,leaving them with little supports. If quality health care at all stages of life is a priority for state lawmakers, this policy has moved us in the wrong direction.”