To The Daily Sun,
As an advocate for underfunded long-term care providers, I read with interest a Sun article on Dec. 29 about the jail costs for several counties that Belknap County produced for comparison's sake.
Based upon the data, in 2017 Belknap County spent the least among counties on inmates, at an average per-inmate daily cost of $117.90. That will increase to $133.70 in 2018.
Merrimack County spent the most, at a daily cost of $284.18 for each inmate. We can compare that figure to the $170.66 daily Medicaid rate for residents being cared for in the Merrimack County Nursing Home.
At $216.46 per day, even economically-challenged Coos County spent far more on inmates than the Medicaid rates at its two county-owned nursing homes, for whom rates are $153.70 at the Coos County Nursing Hospital in West Stewartstown and $163.87 at the Coos County Nursing Home in Berlin.
A jail inmate was also worth more than a nursing home resident in Sullivan County, where the per-inmate daily cost was $186.09 compared to the Sullivan County Nursing Home’s Medicaid rate of $164.79.
Having studied corrections, I know working in jails and prisons is hard work. I have no reason to believe we should spend less feeding, housing and securing inmates.
But it is worth asking where we are as a society if we are willing to spend more on inmates than on nursing home residents. After all, New Hampshire has the nation’s second-oldest median population. The average long-stay nursing home resident is 83, compared to the national average of 80, and has dementia. He or she has, most likely, exhausted all financial resources — the price of longevity.
A year ago the Executive Council approved a 15 percent pay increase for state prison nurses, based upon difficulty in filling vacancies. Comparatively, over nine full years since July 2009, by this coming June 30 the average Medicaid rate for nursing home care in New Hampshire will have only gone up 7.6 percent. That has fueled a crisis in caregiver retention and recruitment. And the average daily Medicaid rate increase per nursing home resident on Jan. 1 was 5 cents per day.
Our state pays even toll attendants more than inadequate Medicaid reimbursement allows the Belknap County Nursing Home to pay licensed nursing assistants with 100 hours of training. Nationally, 91 percent of nursing assistants are women — many single moms. Let’s value their work as much as we do those working in other areas of government.
Brendan W. Williams
President/CEO, New Hampshire Health Care Association
- Written by Mike Mortensen
- Category: Letters
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