Senior care advocates speak to lawmakers, pushing for higher Medicaid reimbursement

EMILY SCHABACKER

From a packed floor, lawmakers heard firsthand from disability and senior care advocates during hearings held in the Capitol in Helena on Thursday and Friday.

Speakers described personal challenges in accessing health care for elderly and disabled loved ones, and facility operators urged lawmakers to raise the Medicaid reimbursement rates before more services are forced to shut down.

During 2022, 11 nursing homes closed in Montana due to an escalating financial crisis that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, 289 elderly and disabled nursing home residents have been transferred due to facility closures. Of those, 214 moved to other nursing homes, 131 transferred to facilities within the same company, 11 went to swing beds and 64 went to assisted living, transferred to in-home services or moved out of state, according to Barb Smith, senior and long-term care administrator for the state health department. 

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Finding placements for the displaced residents is becoming more and more challenging as severe staffing shortages have forced operators to limit the number of clientele they care for. They’ve also been forced to turn away clients who need complex care, simply because

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