President Jackson’s bill to fund Maine Veterans’ Homes clears Senate on initial vote

AUGUSTA – Last Wednesday, the Maine Senate unanimously approved legislation from Senate President Troy Jackson that would improve funding for Maine Veterans’ Homes. LD 2217, “Resolve, to Require the Department of Health and Human Services to Amend Its MaineCare Reimbursement Rules to Provide Reimbursement to Veterans’ Facilities on a Per Resident Basis” would increase funding for Maine Veterans’ Homes and make that funding ongoing.

“One time payouts will not work. Our Veterans need annual funding that adequately covers the cost of their care,” said President Jackson. “We have a moral responsibility to ensure that they receive it. These facilities are equipped with the knowledge, the caring staff and the values needed to serve those who served.”

The legislation would provide at least an additional $3.1 million in annual funding for the Maine Veterans’ Homes. This funding is eligible for matching federal funds. LD 2217 comes only one year after the Legislature provided a one-time payment to Maine Veterans’ Homes to make up for lagging reimbursement rates. 

Maine Veterans’ Homes was created by the Legislature in 1977 to provide a long term care service to Maine veterans and their eligible family members. They operate as a quasi-state non-profit organization and have locations in Augusta, Caribou, Scarborough, South Paris, Bangor and Machias. MVH operates separately from the VA, but works closely with the department to access federal funds to pay for residents who are covered by VA benefits.

“I believe the state veteran home program is a unique partnership between the State of Maine and Maine Veterans’ Homes,” said Sharon Fusco, CEO of Maine Veterans’ Homes. “And for most of MVH’s history, this partnership worked even without state funding. Reimbursement rates were adequate, MVH’s payor mix was diverse, and MVH provided solid fiscal stewardship. However, expenses have dramatically outpaced revenues over the last few years, driven primarily through inadequate MaineCare reimbursement. LD 2217 offers the opportunity to rectify that situation.”

MaineCare reimbursement rates had been falling short of fully reimbursing MVH for several years but the pandemic initiated a number of issues that exacerbated the problem, including record low occupancy rates, an increased reliance on temporary staff, and an overall increase in wages for caregivers and staff. Maine Veterans’ Homes lost $14 million last year. The Legislature and Governor Mills’ provided temporary relief in the form of a $3 million one-time payment to help make up for these losses.

LD 2217 awaits enactment votes in the Maine House and Senate. 

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