Health portion of Beshear’s budget would help nursing homes, fund training and retention of nurses; mental health, and more

Lerae Wilson of St. Claire Regional Medical Center (Image from video)

Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear previewed the health portion of his budget plan Wednesday, with new money for nursing homes, retention and recruitment of nurses, along with funding for senior hunger and mental health.

Beshear will deliver his budget address at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, Jan. 13. In an unprecedented move that he called a stunt, Republicans who control the House filed their own version of the budget Friday.

There are many differences in the plans for spending the state’s money from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2024, but Beshear said, “Any of our values that they fund more than we do, we’re in favor of it.”

The legislature makes the final decisions on the budget. The Democratic governor can remove line items with vetoes, but Republicans can override him with simple majorities in the House and Senate.

Nursing home relief: Both plans would keep paying nursing homes the additional $29 a day they have been getting for each of their Medicaid patients during the pandemic.

The money comes mainly from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The normal federal match rate for Medicaid is 72%, but that has been increased 6.2% during the pandemic.

The state is asking CMS to re-approve this additional funding retroactive to Jan. 1 and until the end of the federal health emergency, which is expected to be extended at least one more time, said Betsy Johnson, president of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, the nursing-home lobby.

“We are very grateful that it appears that both the Kentucky General Assembly and Governor Beshear are both on the same page with regard to the needs of skilled nursing facilities in Kentucky.”

Johnson said she also was pleased to hear the governor say that the rate increase will be re-evaluated at the end of 2024. (Voters will decide in November 2023 if Beshear gets a second term.)
“I believe the Kentucky General Assembly realizes that we’re not going to ever be able to go back to pre-Covid days,” Johnson said. “Our costs have gone way up, so this $29 add-on really should continue because that’s just the reality of operating a skilled nursing facility today.”

Money to retain and recruit nurses: Beshear said his budget will include scholarship money to recruit nursing students and loan-forgiveness money to keep nurses in the profession and in Kentucky.

He said it will have $6 million a year to “significantly increase” scholarships, doubling the maximum award to $3,000 per semester. “That is a huge difference to students who want to pursue this path, but worry about the cost of doing so,” Beshear said. Currently, about 150 students get scholarships funded by nursing-license fees.

To keep nurses on the job, Beshear’s budget would create a five-year student-loan forgiveness program with up to $3,000 annually for each year a nurse or faculty member is employed in and stays in their job in Kentucky.

“We love our Kentucky nurses,” Beshear said. “We want to support them and we want more people to join the ranks.”

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