We have all heard the budget situation in North Dakota has slumped over the past couple of years. Our state’s Constitution requires a balanced budget. Across-the-board budget cuts, positions going unfilled, and pulling back certain services have taken place. Governor Burgum and the Legislature have declared they will balance the budget, “with no new taxes!” But, are they going to live up to their word or find other ways to raise money for the state?
The Office of Management and Budget (meaning the Governor’s office) has requested House Bill 1130 be introduced to the 65th Legislative Session. “Relating to a provider assessment for nursing facilities, and to provide a penalty.” the title of the bill reads. An assessment for nursing facilities? A penalty if they don’t comply?
House Bill 1130, if passed in its current form and approved by the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would require nursing facilities to pay the state’s Tax Commissioner an “assessment” for their “non-medicare bed days” every quarter. If nursing homes do not comply, they’ll get hit with a “penalty” of five percent of the assessment due plus one percent interest. The money would go into a new account in the Treasurer’s office and only be used for long-term care in the future.
In other words, people who are in a nursing home and pay out-of-pocket will likely be “assessed” an amount to pay for the care of others in nursing homes on Medicaid. You heard that right, the state is proposing to raise money from senior citizens to pay for services.
I want you to remember when the 64th Legislature rejected an amendment in the August 2016, special session to make nursing homes whole. According to the Long-Term Care Association lobbyist, legislative leadership promised to take care of it starting January. Is this their fix?
Why is the state offering this? Not just because commodity prices are down, but because they also chose to give away hundreds of millions of dollars to out of state corporations and oil companies. They’ve eliminated large chunks of state revenue that fund these basic services and need to find a new way to pay for nursing home care. So why not tax our elderly, right? “Oh, but don’t call it a tax, we promised we’d accomplish this with no new taxes!”
Call it an assessment, call it a fee, call it whatever the hell you want. It is a tax. It is a tax on senior citizens and their families to pay for nursing home care in the state of North Dakota. House Bill 1130 has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.