The health portion of the Beshear budget would help nursing homes, fund the training and retention of nurses; mental health and more

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By 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 hiring of nurses, along with funding for hunger and mental health for the elderly.

Beshear will give his budget address on Thursday, January 13 at 7pm ET. your own version of the budget Friday.

There are many differences in the plans to spend the state money from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2024, but Beshear said: “Any of our securities that fund more than us, we are in favor.” “

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

Nursing Home Relief: Both plans would continue to pay nursing homes the additional $ 29 per day they have been receiving for each of their Medicaid patients during the pandemic.

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

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

“We are very grateful that both the Kentucky General Assembly and Governor Beshear appear to be on the same page regarding the needs of Kentucky skilled nursing facilities.”

Johnson said she was also pleased to hear the governor say that the rate increase will be reevaluated in late 2024. (Voters will decide in November 2023 whether Beshear gets a second term.)

“I think the Kentucky General Assembly realizes that we can never go back to the pre-Covid days,” Johnson said. “Our costs have gone up a lot, so this $ 29 add-on should really continue because that’s the reality of operating a skilled nursing facility today.”

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

He said he will have $ 6 million a year to “significantly increase” scholarships, doubling the maximum award to $ 3,000 per semester. “That is a huge difference for students who want to go down this path, but worry about the cost of doing it,” Beshear said. Currently, about 150 students obtain 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 and remains at 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.”

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

Lerae Wilson, director of nursing and vice president of patient services for St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, he thanked the governor in a video.

“Nurses are warriors,” he said. “We are fighting for the lives of those we serve … But these warriors are tired. They are exhausted. The pandemic has shown us that while we are good at what we do, mandatory overtime can only continue for a limited time. “. And with shortages like this, we have to have people who are willing to step into those shoes and continue that fight … We have to have replacements. ”

The Kentucky Nurses Association Projects that the state will need more than 16,000 more nurses by 2024 to replace those who will retire or leave the profession, as many have done during the pandemic.

A KNA survey of 850 nurses in October found that a quarter said they were likely or extremely likely to leave their job in the next three months, and 16% said they were likely to leave nursing.

Beshear also wants to use $ 2 million of federal pandemic relief money for a marketing and outreach program for the profession, and includes nurses in its proposed $ 400 million “hero bonuses” for work during the pandemic.

In December, Beshear signed an executive order that allows the state to take special steps to educate and license more nurses. Among other things, it requires that the State Board of Nursing approve requests to increase enrollment in schools that show sufficient resources to serve more students; requires schools to report vacant student seats to the board on a monthly basis; and requires the board to post them online, allowing schools with no vacancies to refer applicants to available slots.

Greater hunger: With the money from the pandemic, Beshear said, Kentucky eliminated a waiting list of about 7,000 seniors for free meals.

“I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t know before this pandemic that we had a waiting list for hungry seniors in Kentucky,” he said. “That’s right. We had a list of how many older adults couldn’t afford regular meals and needed our help and we weren’t reaching all of them.”

So that never happens again, Beshear said, he wants $ 36.2 million over the next two and a half years for an additional 49,000 senior meals per week, which fully meets the current needs of Kentucky citizens.

“We should never again have a waiting list for hungry seniors to get help,” he said.

Mental health: Beshear’s plan includes several mental health boosts:

  • $ 3.4 million in Fiscal Year 2023 and $ 9.9 million in Fiscal Year 2024 to phase in an additional 170 employees to Kentucky Community Mental Health Centers, which offer 24/7 support. week.
  • Implementation of the new crisis support line 988, a three-digit number that will replace the National Suicide Prevention Line in July 2024.
  • Funding to expand Tim’s Law to two other psychiatric hospitals in the state: Eastern State Hospital and the Appalachian Regional Hospital Tim’s Law allows judges to order assisted outpatient treatment for people who have been involuntarily hospitalized, with the goal of stopping the revolving door of these people in and out of state jails and psychiatric hospitals.

Also proposed in Beshear’s part of the health budget:

  • Fully funded by Medicaid, covering one in three Kentuckians, including more than 650,000 children.
  • Money for 500 more places at the “Michelle P.” waiver program and 100 more spaces in the Supports for Community Living waiver program, both for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Thousands of Kentuckians are on waiting lists for the programs.
  • More than $ 36 million for health departments, which are switching to a new financing model. The money can be used to help with staffing and operations.
  • Funding from the Pediatric Research Trust Fund, which organizes all of Kentucky’s research on pediatric cancer, would increase from $ 2.5 million to $ 3.75 million annually.
  • A 34% increase in funding for domestic violence centers, rape crisis centers and child advocacy centers; An additional $ 19.6 million a year to sustain and expand prevention services; and a 17% rate increase for residential and therapeutic foster care providers.
  • An increase of $ 2 per child, per day, in the reimbursement rate for the child care attendant program, using federal aid funds.
  • Various funds to help veterans’ causes, including $ 1 million in fiscal 2024 for the phase-in of operations at the newest state veteran center in Bowling Green.

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