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Nursing homes get a boost from South Dakota Legislature

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Kathleen Shannon

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(Greater Dakota News Service) Nursing homes across South Dakota will soon receive a boost in support, as part of the most recent legislative session.

Facilities caring for Medicaid recipients are reimbursed by the state for some of the cost. Reimbursement rates have been calculated based on patient needs, occupancy and funds available in the state budget. Last year, the South Dakota Legislature increased the rate from about 75 percent to 100 percent.

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House Bill 1167 now allows the Medicaid reimbursement rate to be adjusted annually, to keep up with inflation and other changes.

Erik Nelson, advocacy director for AARP South Dakota, is glad lawmakers are giving nursing homes attention.

"We have seen a number of nursing homes close in recent years," Nelson pointed out. "Financial considerations were a factor in that, along with workforce and some other issues."

Since 2019, 15 nursing homes have closed across the state, with six of the remaining 98 on a federal list of facilities not meeting basic standards of care. In addition to a lack of funding, the average staff turnover rate is 54 percent.

State lawmakers also approved the use of $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding toward expanding telehealth services in facilities including nursing homes, allowing patients to receive some health care services remotely.

Nelson noted telehealth is one way to supply needed support.

"For not only the residents, but the family caregivers that are supporting their loved ones in the nursing homes," Nelson emphasized. "And of course, the staff of the nursing home that's in the community."

Census data show South Dakota's population is aging and by 2030, one-fifth of residents will be older than 65.