HARTFORD, Conn. - Gov. M. Jodi Rell's proposal to keep funding flat for Connecticut nursing homes is angering workers and directors at those facilities, who say it equates to a budget cut as their expenses skyrocket.
Rell recommends freezing the state's Medicaid reimbursements to the state's 240 nursing homes at 2009 levels, eliminating automatic increases in 2010 and 2011 that the homes anticipated.
Lawmakers would have to locate and add $282 million to the budget proposal to reverse Rell's plan — money that the union representing nursing home workers believes could come, at least in large part, from federal stimulus money.
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"Residents and caregivers are already hurting, and hurting badly," said Carmen Boudier, president of New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, whose members rallied Wednesday on the State Capitol steps.
"It will only get worse unless we come together, lobby together and have faith together that we can make our voices heard inside this building and in every city and town in this state," Boudier told the cheering crowd of about 275 people, who waved signs and chanted, "We can fight, we can win."
Robert Genuario, Rell's budget director, said Wednesday that the state's economic realities — current and looming budget deficits, decreasing income from taxes — mean many once-automatic increases simply are no longer feasible.
Her budget proposal already includes all of the federal stimulus money estimated for Connecticut, and cuts were still needed to make it workable, he said.
Genuario said that the fact Rell is proposing to maintain this year's funding level and not cut it "indicates the importance she places on the nursing home industry and the workers and residents in it."
As of Wednesday, Connecticut had 240 licensed skilled nursing facilities. The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities says five are in bankruptcy, with 10 run by the state under receivership as the owners seek buyers.
What's going on in my state? (via MSNBC wire services)