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State lawmaker introduces bill to help fund nursing homes after seven have closed in last 15 months

(WABI)
Published: Apr. 5, 2019 at 4:05 PM EDT
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Seven nursing homes in Maine have closed since the start of last year.

Lawmakers in Augusta are trying to do something about it.

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, introduced a bill Friday to provide more funding to nursing homes.

"Adult care facilities and the elderly are near and dear to my heart, and I will work to do whatever I can do to help them," said Timberlake.

It would increase the reimbursement rates at the same level that the minimum wage is being increased.

"They're not getting funding to keep up with raising the minimum wage," said Timberlake.

]"The biggest single cost in any nursing home or assisted living facility is their staffing costs, and that is putting the most pressure on facilities now," said Rick Erb, President and CEO of Maine Health Care Association. "Those that have had to close over the last year have all cited increased staffing costs as being the major issue that they're dealing with, so we know it's important to adequately pay them so that they can pay their staff adequately."

Timberlake says the state can't keep letting Maine's nursing homes go under, or there's going to be nowhere for people to go.

"The elderly, disabled children, these group of people that don't have somebody to fight for them all the time, I've always been an advocate for that group of people," said Timberlake. "I think it's important because somebody has to be."

"We think that the situation for nursing homes is critical at this point," said Erb. "And in order to maintain the ones that we have, let alone deal with what future needs might bring us, we think that it's very important for the legislature to act this session."

The bill will now be voted on in committee before it heads to the House and Senate floors.

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