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Missouri veterans may see price hikes at state-run nursing homes

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - 5/25/2023

May 25—JEFFERSON CITY — A new report is not calling for a drastic overhaul of the nursing homes Missouri operates for military veterans, but it does suggest the agency raise its prices.

In a review of a preliminary study conducted by outside consultants Thursday, members of the Missouri Veterans Commission discussed a possible 9% increase in monthly room rates for veterans, as well as a possible 14% hike for residents living in single rooms.

Abigail Sherburne, a consultant for Public Consulting Group, said the goal is to generate additional dollars to open more beds within the state's seven homes.

Some commissioners, however, expressed concern about hiking prices.

"Many of our veterans living in our homes are on fixed incomes," said Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City.

"I certainly have the concerns you expressed," added commission chairman Kelly McClelland.

At issue are empty beds within a system designed to serve more than 1,200 veterans.

Through a combination of a lack of state funding and a shortage of nursing staff, the agency is currently only filling about 62% of its beds.

According to the agency, there are an estimated 413,000 veterans living in Missouri. The agency said it wants the consulting firm to provide a "next generation operating model" to provide "a path to transformation."

Although the report notes that the agency could begin investigating a pilot program to offer care through an assisted living model, the main focus of the commission's discussion were the possible price hikes and a push to bring the homes to 90% capacity by next year.

According to the study, the current rate for Missouri rooms is $2,549 per month. The cost for a similar program for veterans in Oklahoma is $4,450 and $6,520 per month in Tennessee.

Terressa Sherlock, director of budget and finance for the commission, said added payments from the Legislature and governor have helped keep the agency afloat, but that is not always an option during lean budget years.

"I think it's clear we are not bringing in the revenue needed to support our operation," Sherlock said.

The report also found that the homes need as much as $42.8 million in physical improvements. At the Bellefontaine Neighbors home, the cost is the highest at $8.4 million.

The facility with the lowest need is in St. James, which requires more than $4 million.

The other homes are located in Cameron, Cape Girardeau, Mexico, Mt. Vernon and Warrensburg.

Along with raising rates, the report suggests adding additional private rooms to the mix. In addition, another option would be to allow spouses to live at the homes.

The report is expected to be finalized next week.

The commission is scheduled to discuss future decisions during a meeting at the Bellefontaine Neighbors facility in July.

"It will give us a lot to look at and review," McClelland said.


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