By Kaylee Poche and Devon Sanders, LSU Manship School News Service
Gov. John Bel Edwards scheduled a press conference for Wednesday to discuss 20,000 eviction notices that the Louisiana Department of Health plans to send on Thursday to nursing home residents across the state. Over 37,000 individuals would no longer be eligible for Medicaid under the budget passed recently by the Louisiana House, and 20,000 of those would be forced out of nursing homes, Robert Johannessen, the Health Department’s communications director, said Tuesday. The proposed budget cuts health care for the elderly, poor and disabled heavily to compensate for the state’s projected $648 million budget shortfall.
According to Johannessen, the remaining 17,000 individuals affected are those with developmental disabilities who reside in group homes and people who receive nursing and other services in their own homes. The Republican-controlled House failed to pass any revenue-raising measures during a special session earlier this year, and the Legislature cannot vote on any revenue-raising measures during the current regular session. Edwards has called on Republican leaders to pass tax measures to replace that hundreds of millions of dollars that will be lost when a temporary one-cent increase in the state sales tax expires on July 1. The governor has said that to try to avoid balancing the budget mostly with spending cuts, he would call another special session after the regular session adjourns. Sending the eviction notices could add to the pressure on the Legislature to come up with a different solution.
But if it fails to come up with an alternative before the next fiscal year begins July 1, these large cuts to health care could become a reality, and tens of thousands of nursing home residents would be left without a place to live. According to Mark Berger, executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, for some nursing home residents, it may already be too late. He said nursing home residents and their families could be negatively affected by the eviction notices even if some of the funding is restored during a potential special session. “These notices may trigger adverse actions by lenders that could include calling off loans or seizing of nursing facility assets,” Berger said. “Once these letters are sent, regardless if these programs are restored, it may too late for some of our members.” Johannessen, the Health Department spokesman, said that the notification process had already begun.
“The goal of the department is to give notice to all affected people as soon as possible in order that they begin developing their appropriate plans,” Johannessen said in a written statement. Furthermore, losing a portion of Medicaid patients could force some nursing homes to shut down due to lack of patients and funds. Such closures would affect those residents who are not on Medicaid as well as nursing home employees, creating what Berger called “a ripple-effect.”
“If you imagine the community that you serve, the residents impacted are the members of your community that you saw working every day who have now reached a point where they are sick and need our help,” Berger said. “This is an unimaginable burden to our residents and their families well-being.” Ber ger testified on behalf of the 25,000 nursing home residents that his association represents.
“Our residents require 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week care,” Berger said. “These people cannot be taken care of at home, and many of them are at an age where there is no home to return to.”