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Area legislators weigh in on health bill

Three area legislators offered their perspectives on the House-approved Omnibus Health and Human Services bill that passed Monday by a 70-64 vote. Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, and Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore, voted against the bill. Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, voted for it.

Kresha said the Minnesota House majority’s plan to cut $26 million dollars next biennium from senior living has rural nursing homes very concerned. He was one of more than two dozen members from the GOP’s Rural Caucus who participated in a news conference Monday to highlight the proposed cuts, and called on House Democrats to fully fund the promises made to Minnesota seniors.

“With nearly $3 billion in new taxes and fees in the Democrats’ proposed budget, we ask the majorities to prioritize our “greatest generation” and fully fund nursing homes using sustainable, stable funding sources,” Rep. Ron Kresha, said.

Kresha explained that nursing homes have been forced to do more with less for years, and now the DFL’s misprioritized budget cuts will jeopardize 115 senior living facilities, 15,000 long-term care workers, and countless rural communities.

“Few things would hit families in greater Minnesota harder than the closing of a local nursing home or senior care center. I’m disappointed that with double-digit increases in many budget areas that the majority is choosing to cut Health and Human Services funding, including $26 million dollars from our seniors.”

Kresha said that House Democrats are claiming an increase in nursing home funding in their budget, but he explained that the “increase” actually amounts to a net cut of $26 million dollars in the 2014-2015 biennium baseline. He went on to say that $26 million dollars, at minimum, was needed to maintain current service levels at nursing home and senior care facilities across the state.

Ward voted in favor of the bill. In a statement he said the bill reduces the HHS budget by $150 million over two years through targeted cuts, reforms, and re-prioritization while still protecting the poor and vulnerable.

Despite the $150 million reduction, the bill provides a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for nursing home providers and a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for long-term care providers.

“After four years of no wage increases, this bill is a step in the right direction for our nursing homes and long-term care workers,” Ward said. “It’s a night and day difference from the budget under the previous legislature that cut $500 million from seniors and the disabled.”

Rep. Ward also authored an amendment requiring licensure and inspections for facilities that perform ten or more abortions per month. The license can be revoked or suspended if the facility commits any illegal act or conduct detrimental to the welfare of the patient. The amendment was adopted and included in the bill.

Anderson said the Minnesota House majority’s plan to cut $26 million from senior living in the upcoming biennium would be damaging to nursing homes throughout the state.

The cut is part of HF 1233, which the House addressed on the House floor Monday.

“This budget cut would be detrimental to the long-term care Minnesotans receive,” Anderson said. “It astonishes me the Democrat majority is planning to raise our taxes by $2.6 billion and pile hundreds of millions of dollars in fees on top of that, yet they fail to adequately support our elderly citizens. Long-term care should be of utmost priority, but it appears as if our senior citizens are being pushed aside so Democrats can waste more money on government programs.”

He is among a coalition of legislators from outstate Minnesota who support a 5-percent funding increase for nursing homes, senior care homes and group homes.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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