AUGUSTA - Governor Paul R. LePage will propose emergency legislation to immediately fund Maine's nursing facilities, some of which are in jeopardy of closure.
Governor LePage sent the bill to lawmakers today Thursday, May 1, when they reconvened at the State House prior to adjourning the 126th Second Regular Session.
Maine nursing homes are struggling, and some are on the brink of shutting down. According to Rick Erb, chief executive officer of the Maine Health Care Association-an organization that represents 101 of the State's nursing homes-funding is not adequate. "It is well documented that Maine under-reimburses its nursing homes by over $22 million per year already, threatening their viability," he stated. "We believe this to be penny wise and pound foolish."
The Governor's bill will allocate funds for nursing homes from a one-time disbursement of tobacco settlement money (State of Maine v. Philip Morris, et al., Kennebec County Superior Court, Docket No. CV-97-134).
The Governor vetoed a bill (LD 1719) that would have used those funds for "pilot projects" and "outreach campaigns", most of which could be funded with other grants. His veto message states:
There are nursing homes in Maine that are on the verge of imminent shutdown due to the decade-long failure of the Legislature to adequately fund them. They need funding now, not tomorrow, and not starting in June of 2015, which is when the Legislature's proposed budget would start increasing their funding. The funding stream attached to this bill should be used to fund the pressing priorities of keeping the doors open at Maine's nursing homes, as well as increasing adult day services, which help to keep seniors in their homes for longer. It's time we figure out our priorities-a vote to override this veto is a vote to close nursing facilities.
"Our elderly and disabled should not be forced to live in fear of knowing if they will have a place to call home tomorrow, said Governor LePage. "I simply will not stand for this and it's why I have provided a solution to pay our nursing homes to keep our most vulnerable Mainers safe."