Proposed "Granny Tax" seeks to fund Medicaid by taxing private pay nursing home residents

Mar-23-2017

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By Ron Jennette, President & CEO, Methodist Retirement Communities


This year, I had the opportunity to be in Austin and witness first hand Governor Greg Abbott's State of the State Address. In listening to his priorities for this legislative session and his vision for our great state, there were a number of commitments that stood out to all of us proud Texans. One particular statement I heard loud and clear was, ".the only good tax is a dead tax", which is why I was so surprised to learn legislation was filed that would tax a most vulnerable group of elderly residents who reside in Texas nursing homes.

 

During my 23 years in the long-term care and senior living industry, I have seen many attempts to effectively avoid getting at the heart of the real issue, which is properly and appropriately reimbursing nursing homes for the actual cost of providing quality care and services to those in need who have such limited means. Instead, there currently seems to be a focus on more misguided proposals roaming the halls of our Texas Capitol, proposals that effectively tax some of the most vulnerable in our society. 

 

Labeled "the granny tax" in previous sessions, state Senate Bill 1130 and House Bill 2766 would generate state revenue by taxing nursing home beds in the state. Nursing home residents, including retired veterans and teachers, who pay for their own care would effectively now have to carry an added tax bill of over $4,000 per year. The bill would tax 30,000 nursing home residents across Texas over $120 million dollars, pushing the private pay residents ever closer to requiring Medicaid assistance themselves. Oh, House Bill 2766 does try to pretend the tax won't be passed on to residents; but that only adds a layer of absurdity to the bill.

Specifically, SB 1130 and HB 2766 include hypothetical perfect case assumptions that are ultimately unrealistic and impossible to guarantee. With the changes in Medicaid funding currently being considered at the federal level, these bills will expose Texans to a stronger dependence on federal funding streams when the future of such federal funding is in the midst of change and uncertainty. These bills create a private corporation outside of statute, the details of which are not all clear, with no legislative oversight to manage and administer Medicaid payments to Texas nursing homes. These bills also do not make quality the primary focus of the proposed legislation. Finally, there are no viable entities operating who do not ultimately pass on all their costs; so a bill that suggests otherwise without providing a guaranteed long-term mechanism to assure such, puts quality nursing homes at risk. It's no secret that every organization must cover its costs to remain afloat. It's just basic math.

 

Crestview has proudly been serving residents of Bryan and College Station since the early 1960s. Recently working closely with its sole member, Methodist Retirement Communities (MRC), we confirmed our long-term commitment to this area by redeveloping Crestview and then adding Arbor Oaks. Having a stellar reputation for quality service and compassionate, caring staff, Crestview is the only 5-star rated community in the area; as determined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As a faith-based, non-profit who is committed to serving seniors with integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence, MRC now has another senior living community under construction in this area to serve the great people of Bryan, College Station and Brazos County. This new, under-construction community is called The Langford at College Station; and is located next to Christ United Methodist Church off Hwy 6. We expect to open the doors during the first half of next year.

 

If our society is going to treat our most vulnerable seniors with respect, dignity and appreciation for paving the way for us, I believe we need our legislators to support quality of care/services with funding solutions for nursing homes that do not arbitrarily target specifically just those who are already frail and aging. In recent years, I have been very encouraged to hear Senator Schwertner talk to the importance of quality in nursing homes, and I applaud his dedication to such. Crestview/Arbor Oaks works very hard to treat our residents with the respect and dignity worthy of those whose hard work and sacrifices made possible the opportunities each of us has today. It is unfortunate that some elected officials would seek to threaten that care by imposing yet another tax, this time on some of the most vulnerable in our society.  Instead of more taxes, let's redirect the focus to SB 1819 and HB 2454. These bills invest state dollars in a Medicaid Quality-Based Payment program that connects payments with quality.