Texas budget cuts threaten nursing homes

February 9, 2011 6:14:15 PM PST
Area nursing homes are worried about Governor Rick Perry's budget proposal, which includes slashing billions of dollars from state provided health care. Some nursing home administrators fear the changes could force them to close their doors.

The message from the state capital is clear -- something will have to be cut to make up Texas' budget deficit. And it looks like Medicaid's budget is on the chopping block, which could affect the state's poorest kids and senior citizens.

The Park Manor South Belt Nursing Home in south Houston is the only place many residents say they can call home.

"It's like heaven to me because I have no place else to go," Park Manor resident Jane Bankey said.

But it may be the last place many residents call home too.

"Could you get an apartment and live on your own?" we asked Park Manor resident Nora Flint.

"No," she replied.

"Why not?"

"Because I can't take care of myself."

Park Manor South Belt is a long-term facility with nurses on 24-7 and equipped for the needs of the very sick and elderly.

About half of the residents pay through Medicaid, which is the state and federally funded program that provides health care to kids, pregnant women and the elderly.

But Medicaid is facing big cuts under the current budget proposals in the legislature. It's as much as 33 percent according to the lobbying group Park Manor belongs to, the Texas Health Care Association.

Perry discussed cuts in his State of the State Address on Tuesday as a way to make up a budget deficit estimated as high as $27 billion.

"Are we facing some tough choices? Of course we are, but we can overcome them by setting priorities -- by reducing spending," Perry said.

Park Manor's daily rate is $144 dollars. Right now, Medicaid pays $130. If the state cuts 33 percent, it would subtract $42.90 cents from that $130 amount, lowering Medicaid's payments to only $87.10 a day.

Administrator Vicki Morel says that's operating at a loss.

"We've already started thinking about what we are going to do if this does go through, and where we can cut staffing," Morel said.

That means Park Manor could stop accepting Medicaid patients.

Morel didn't know what would happen to the current Medicaid residents, but Bankey had a pretty good idea.

"I would just be floundering. There would be nowhere to go and nothing. I don't want to think about it," Bankey said.

The nursing home lobby group also says thousands of jobs across the state would be lost if Medicaid was cut. Park Manor South Belt's administrator agreed, saying wages and benefits make up the biggest portion of her budget.

You can read more on this story in the Tomball Potpourri, one of our Houston Community Newspaper partners.