A Better Deal for Nursing-Home Patients

Article excerpt

The Missouri Senate has given support to efforts by Gary Stangler, head of the Department of Social Services, and others to reform the state's nursing-home system. Those efforts gained momentum when Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed a task force on nursing-home reforms.

The governor acted partly in response to a Post-Dispatch series. It showed how the state's nursing-home system suffers from weak state regulations and widespread staff shortages. The task force urged the Legislature to pass bills that imposed taxes on nursing homes to finance several important reforms.

The House acted earlier. Last week, the Senate did the same. It voted 28-3 in support of taxing nursing homes and using the revenue to capture up to $60 million a year in federal aid to improve nursing-home care. Both houses must now reconcile minor differences in their bills.

The Senate vote is good news, particularly for homes serving disproportionate numbers of needy patients. They must rely on federal-state Medicaid health insurance to finance their care. Up to now, the state's flat-rate reimbursement system has worked to the disadvantage of homes serving patients needing comprehensive care. …