Lawmakers again try, again fail to transfer local Medicaid beds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 21, 2002

[03/21/02]One Warren County nursing home remains short of Medicaid-funded beds after another attempt by local legislators to acquire them.

In February, Sen. Mike Chaney, R-Vicksburg, proposed that 15 Medicaid-funded beds from a closed Vicksburg nursing home be certified as Medicaid beds in the newer facility. But for the third time in three years, the proposal died in committee.

“It happened for two reasons,” Chaney said. “One is lack of funding and the other is because of worries that other facilities may try to add things” to the bill.

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Lawmakers have struggled to keep Medicaid funded this year. The public health insurance program provides services to people who have private insurance or assets. The state Department of Health defines how many Medicaid-eligible nursing home beds are assigned around the state, in essence rationing them.

Warren County became eligible for the 15 beds in a certificate of need issued on April 18, 1990, to the Sydney House, which was at 900 Crawford St. Chaney’s proposed amendment was to move the bed assignments to Sydney’s replacement facility, Heritage House at 3103 Wisconsin Ave.

Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, filed a similar bill in the House that also died in committee. Flaggs said because of the struggle to fund Medicaid no changes in the state plan are likely.

“We’re still working on it,” he said. “When the money becomes available, I don’t think it will be any problem.”

Sen. Robert Huggins, R-Greenwood, chairman of Senate Public Health and Welfare, agreed that the reason the proposal died was financial.

“We only had one bill that dealt with a certificate of need and it couldn’t be amended because the code section was taken out,” he said.

Huggins said the code section was removed because there was not enough money to fund the beds.

“We didn’t want to include it in the budget,” he said. “It’s not that we’re opposed to it, because something does need to be done.”

Rep. Chester Masterson, R-Vicksburg, doesn’t think money was the sole problem since the beds have been authorized and funded in the past.

“I don’t know why the chairman of Public Health is against getting the beds out,” said Masterson, a retired physician. “He promised me he’d look at it but I never got any confirmation.”

Masterson said failure to transfer the beds means Heritage House patients will move to another facility that has Medicaid beds when the patients run out of their own money. That means the expense is the same as going ahead and granting the beds to the facility, he said.

“I don’t know what (Huggins’) rationale was.”

Both Chaney and Flaggs said they will file the bill again next session.

Three other nursing homes in Vicksburg are Trace Haven, Shady Lawn and Vicksburg.