Despite an overall HHS Budget that cut over $300 million in healthcare spending, Minnesota nursing home workers won a historic new rate system that invests $138 million over the next two years. The average home will see an increase of a little over 20%, finally bringing reimbursement rates up to the cost of care after decades of underfunding. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center should see rates go up around 37%.
The new nursing home reimbursement system contains several features that reflect long-standing SEIU priorities.
For years, SEIU nursing home workers like Louise Duffee, union steward at Texas Terrace nursing home have be testifying at legislative hearings, attending Lobby Day, donating to COPE and volunteering for legislative candidates. All of the hard work had paid off with a historic victory.
Check out SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Brenda Schwartz from St. Lucas Care Center in this radio ad from the Working Families Fund . Brenda talks as a nursing home worker about why we need to re-elect State Representative Patti Fritz.
This post is an independent expenditure in support of Patti Fritz for State Representative by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota PAC. It is not approved by any candidate.
Recently some legislators, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk more prominently, who support the idea of raising the minimum wage, have expressed concern that a $9.50 minimum wage would hurt Minnesota nursing homes. They have expressed fears that if homes were forced to pay all workers $9.50 an hour, many would close.
At a February 26th press conference, SEIU Exec Board member and MN State Representative Patti Fritz introduced a bill that would increase long term care funding and enable nursing home workers to receive a long-overdue raise. Backed by a bi-partisan group of legislators including SEIU-endorsed GOP State Rep. Jim Abeler, the bill would provide nursing home workers with their first real raise in over six years.
Bill HF 886/ SF 792 would:
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Louise Duffee, an RNA from Texas Terrace, spoke alongside Rep. Fritz at the hearing. Duffee spoke about having a smaller paycheck than she did six years ago and the problem of short staffing in nursing homes across the state. She shared about one night in particular she recalled on the job:
“Down one hall, I faced two flashing call lights and down the other hall, I saw eight more flashing call lights. I was left to handle all ten lights by myself.”
Now Louise and Patti need your help. Contact your legislator and ask them to support HF 886/ SF 792. You can find you legislator and their contact info at www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts.
Today, Governor Dayton signed into effect the Vulnerable Adult Felony bill, which, for the first time, increases the charge for neglect of vulnerable adults to a felony. The bill creates a felony provision in state law that would target caregivers who intentionally deprive vulnerable adults of food, clothing, shelter, health care or supervision.
Minnesota has been one of five states that classified such crimes as misdemeanors, with little or no jail time and minimal fines even in cases where vulnerable people were found suffering in squalid conditions. The new law will create a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Healthcare Minnesota, and others in the care industry worried their workers could be punished for honest mistakes or lack of resources, but the compromise reached in the bill creates some protections for workers and facilities. Healthcare Minnesota worked with the County Attorney Association and Representative Gottwalt to make sure that felony neglect in the vulnerable adult bill included an affirmative defense for workers. This defense protects care workers if they can show neglect occurred because of inadequate staffing levels or lack of training. Minnesota will be the only state that includes such language.
Wall Street, top 1% should pay fair share to stop cuts and closings
Caregivers from Dellwood Place and Bethesda Care Center, two Cerenity nursing homes slated for closure in November, rallied Wednesday at Dellwood Place with community supporters from across the Twin Cities to stand up for seniors, the disabled, and long term care workers.
During a week that the Congressional “Super Committee” is expected to discuss proposals to make drastic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and public services, those at the rally demanded that major banks and “the top 1%” pay their fair share of taxes to protect public services like quality care for our disabled and elderly.
“These closures will force our residents, who have lived in the community for decades, to move away from their neighborhood and family members,” said Calvin Cooper, a janitor at Dellwood Place. “The big banks crashed our economy and foreclosed on our homes. Now, the continued refusal of the top 1% to pay their fair share of taxes is causing budget cuts and closures of our state’s nursing homes. It’s time to stop being bullied by the big banks and Wall St. and start standing up for dignity for seniors and workers.”
Updated 6/30/11 12:15pm
Will the shutdown affect my hospital, clinic, or nursing home?
The short answer is yes. Our facilities rely heavily on state funding to operate and a government shutdown will likely interfere with payments from the state. Right now, the courts are hearing arguments to keep essential services running even if the state government shuts down, but a final ruling has not yet been made. Stay tuned for more updates as information becomes available. Judge Gearin ruled on June 29th that the State will continue to make Medicaid/MA and MNCare payments to hospitals and nursing homes.
Will I get paid during the shutdown?
We will continue to enforce our collective bargaining agreements during any government shutdown including applicable payday and wage provisions.
I’m a licensed healthcare worker. How will the shutdown affect me?
The Minnesota Board of Nursing and the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice have said that licensed health-care professionals will not be able to renew their licenses during a government shutdown, which would occur July 1 if the governor and Legislature fail to reach a budget agreement by June 30. Therefore, any professionals whose licenses expire during a shutdown – be they nurses, pharmacists, etc. – will then be unable to practice.
Why is the state government facing a shutdown?
The Republican majority in the legislature passed a budget with $1 billion in funding losses for our hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. Governor Dayton vetoed that budget, and now the state faces a shutdown. If the Republican budget passed, it would put thousands of our jobs at risk and cut off thousands of Minnesotans from access to basic medical care. Worst of all, it would balance the budget on the backs of our seniors and people with disabilities – which is exactly what these legislators promised not to do. Governor Dayton’s budget proposal asks the richest 2% of Minnesotans to pay more so we can maintain quality healthcare and long-term care. The rest of us would not pay a dime more in taxes.
What can I do to speak out against the shutdown?
Join SEIU and our allies at a Shutdown Eve vigil on Thursday, June 30th from 9pm-11pm on the steps of the Capitol. RSVP here.
In this video from our friends at Minnesota 2020, Rep. Patti Fritz speaks up, as she always has, for seniors and long term care workers.
Patti knows firsthand what it means to be a caregiver. Before being elected to office, Patti was a licensed practical nurse for over 30 years in Faribault and a proud member of our union. In addition to serving the people of Faribault at the state legislature, Patti also serves on the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Executive Board.
Keep up the fight, Patti!
State Rep. Patti Fritz, who is also a member of our union and herself a Licensed Practical Nurse of over 35 years, introduced a bill in the state legislature that would increase nursing home rates by 4 percent, with 75 percent of the money going directly to wage increases and benefits.
Rep. Fritz pointed out that this bill’s increases don’t even catch up to inflation, saying “Today we’re asking for 4 percent; we are 20 percent behind.”
“It’s almost not humanly possible to give quality care or prevent accidents with current reimbursement rates.”
With our state budget deficit, it is highly unlikely that this bill will pass, but we know that Patti is fighting for us every day!