By Jon Tollefson
MNA Government Relations Specialist
Today is the first day of the 2018 legislative session in Minnesota, and it promises to be a whirlwind. It’s a bonding, rather than a budgeting year, which is typically shorter. However, remember last year’s budget ended with Governor Dayton vetoing the operating budget of the legislature, and that needs to be passed too. Between now and May 21st, legislators will debate tax policy, infrastructure investments, and other policy changes.
One of the many issues the Minnesota Nurses Association is working on is properly funding home health nursing. Right now, about 1,000 patients need home healthcare nursing each year in Minnesota. Their needs vary between complex care and low-complex care and between RNs and LPNs providing that care. In order to those needs, the State authorizes about 2 million hours of LPN nursing services per year. But home healthcare agencies only provide 75% of the home healthcare hours the State authorizes because they say they can’t hire enough LPNs to fill the rest of the hours with the current reimbursement rates set by the State.
The agencies give two reasons for the difficulty in attracting LPNs to homecare. One is the low wage offered, which they say is roughly $14-$17 per hour on average. The second is that many home healthcare agencies can’t afford to provide health insurance and other benefits.
Both of these issues could be solved by legislators raising the reimbursement rate for home healthcare.
One more reason why properly funding homecare will prevent hospital visits. Legislators say they don’t want to increase funding for home healthcare, but we as taxpayers still pay the bill when a patient goes to the hospital, and that’s much more expensive!
We need to make sure our State programs are managed properly so patients get the care they need when they need it. And it saves money in the long run by reducing hospital visits.
It takes political courage from our legislators to do this, but it’s the smart decision. And that’s exactly what we should expect.