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Dems Say New State Budget Would Close Nursing Homes

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A veteran sits in a wheelchair at a nursing home. (credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A veteran sits in a wheelchair at a nursing home. (credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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AUSTIN (AP) – Democratic lawmakers denounced the latest version of the state budget on Wednesday, saying it would close 50 percent of the state’s nursing homes and leave 43,700 elderly and disabled people without a facility to live in.

Lawmakers have been struggling to find a solution to the $27 billion revenue shortfall facing the state. Republicans have pledged to cut state spending and not raise revenues.

A proposal working its way through the House Appropriations committee this week would cut state Medicaid spending by 33 percent. The elderly and disabled take up 59 percent of Medicaid spending in Texas and much of it goes to nursing homes. Other Medicaid programs that help the elderly stay at home would be cut 40 percent.

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, an Austin Democrat serving on the committee, said the draft budget would only provide nursing homes with 67 percent of what it actually costs to house, feed and treat the elderly and disabled. Many facilities use profits from other patients to offset losses on Medicaid patients, but many will not be able to stay in business if reimbursements are cut any further.

The Texas Health Care Association used data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to forecast what the budget cuts mean for nursing homes statewide. In addition to the elderly and disabled who would lose their facilities, the group calculated that nursing homes would lay-off 60,000 workers.

“These are business, many of them small businesses, that provide vital skilled nursing and medical care to Texans who are in grave need and unable to care for themselves,” Dukes said. “We will be putting hundreds of nursing facilities out of business and forcing them to close their doors and leaving those they serve with nowhere to turn.”

“We are making life and death decisions in many cases,” Dukes added.

Republican leaders have repeatedly said that the state is broke and that difficult budget cuts are necessary. Others have cautioned that the final budget will be different from the draft budget. Democrats said if Republicans are planning any major changes from the current draft, they should bring those proposals forward now rather than wait and make backroom deals later in the session.

“If there is going to be additional funding, bring it to us now so that we can discuss and debate the priorities of everyone in the Legislature,” Dukes said.

Democrats make up less than a third of the Texas House. They urged Texans to call their legislators to protest the cuts.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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