Nursing homes unfazed by Medicare ruling

A recent Supreme Court decision to deny nursing homes in the state $9 million in surplus funds expected to be returned “really won’t have an impact” on individual agencies, according to a New Hampshire Health Care Association official.John Poirier, president of the association, said the money had its biggest impact on nursing homes in 2007, when the money was initially paid out as part of regular rates.”But the real effect of not getting that money at this point is more about what they had to do in 2007 when it was supposed to be paid,” Poirier said.Ending litigation that had been ongoing since 2007, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled last month that Gov. John Lynch had the authority to use the $9 million to balance the budget.In 2007, lawmakers had directed the state to pay any surplus from its share of Medicare nursing home reimbursements to the nursing homes. But Lynch issued an executive order in 2008 that reduced the amount intended for the Department of Health and Human Services budget by $8.8 million – the amount that would have gone to the nursing homes.The Health Care Association, which represents 63 nursing homes in the state, sued the governor for return of the money, Poirier said, and members were disappointed in the court’s final ruling.”It’s disheartening,” he said. “In nursing homes, 65 percent of people are on Medicaid. These are people who no longer have any money so it’s the states responsibility to take care of them or pay people to care for them, and the state, once again, is turning their back on the indigent and elderly and telling those who provide that care that they can pay for it.”He added: “It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “We don’t do that with our highways and bridges.”During the litigation, the nursing homes argued Lynch’s executive order amounted to an infringement on the Legislature’s authority to appropriate money, but the court said he didn’t violate the state’s Constitution and in fact acted accordingly to state laws that make the Legislature responsible for adopting a balanced budget, according to an Associated Press story.As for nursing homes around the state currently, Poirier said the only negative effect he could see from the denial of the $9 million would be if they were planning to make capital improvements to their facility.”This money was signed by Governor Lynch into law in 2007 and removed in 2008, and we’ve been battling it out in court since,” Poirier said. “So the anticipation that the money would be forthcoming was never 100 percent for sure.” – FOSTER’S DAILY DEMOCRAT