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Nursing home officials implore lawmakers not to cut funding

ST. PAUL -- Mitch Jasper worries about the fate of his small town and others like it, should state lawmakers cut spending to nursing homes and other care facilities.

Nursing homes often are the largest employer in a small town, said Jasper, mayor of Jackson in southwestern Minnesota. He said rural towns cannot afford to see their nursing homes suffer financially or, in some cases, face closure.

"The community stability of rural Minnesota depends upon the availability of stable, local jobs and the ability for seniors to find access to the care they need locally," Jasper said.

Elderly citizens and nursing home officials filled the Minnesota Capitol rotunda Tuesday to advocate for state aid for long-term care facilities. Lawmakers are considering funding cuts to long-term care programs as they try to solve a $4.6 billion deficit. That is after federal stimulus funds soften the blow of a projected $6.4 billion shortfall.

The Capitol came one day after the Minnesota House and Senate passed major health and human services spending packages, delaying state aid increases that nursing homes planned to receive during the next two-year budget period, beginning July.

The Senate also proposes cutting nursing homes' reimbursement rates, while the House avoids a reimbursement cut.

Other long-term care facilities, such as those treating people with developmental disabilities, would see reductions in their state reimbursements. Nursing home administrators said they are planning for state spending cuts.