Smith focuses on nursing homes and long-term acute care facilities during roundtable in Sikeston

Tuesday, September 12, 2023
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, center, listens during his roundtable with local healthcare professionals Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, at The Copper Still in Sikeston. (Gina Williams/Standard Democrat)

SIKESTON — On Monday, Sept. 11 Congressman Jason Smith heard recommendations from local healthcare professionals to help turn the tide on disparities in access to care that exist for those living in rural and underserved communities.

Smith, who serves as the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, hosted a roundtable discussion with local health care stakeholders Monday at the Copper Still Lounge in Sikeston.

The Eighth District Republican Congressman hosted the roundtable to allow healthcare stakeholders to express their views and solutions for improving rural health care, with a particular focus on nursing homes and long-term acute care facilities. 

The areas of interest Smith highlighted included payment disparities between different geographic areas, long-term financial health of providers and facilities, payments for identical care provided in varying sites of service, bringing new professionals into the healthcare workforce and innovative care models and technology to improve patient outcomes.

One subject that received a lot of attention was the Biden Administration's intention to create stringent staffing standards for nursing homes across the country. 

On Sept. 1, President Joe Biden proposed that in order to help with routine care, there should be a minimum number of registered nurses and nurse assistants. All facilities would be required to expand personnel to a certain level, but the proposal did not include funding for nursing homes to cover the cost of the new employment.

Smith received concerns about the proposed idea from local healthcare groups and professionals.

Ben Sells, a healthcare professional with Paradigm Senior Management, claimed that they are not paid enough to complete all of the tasks required by the federal government. 

“Our hands are tied,” Sells said. “I’m one of the operators sitting here, and I’m doing the best I can. I am in my homes every day; I live in Dexter; I have seven locations; and we are against the wall.

He continued: “And if I’m gone, there’s going to be an East Coast outfitter that buys me out that will take over and run the homes in the ground.” 

Another healthcare worker at the meeting mentioned a number of nursing home closures, which were reported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as 128 nursing homes closing in 2022 as a result of staff shortages, low reimbursements and other financial difficulties. 

Smith said he is completely opposed to it and he has been quite clear about that. 

“This is how incompetent our President of the United States is; he campaigned on this and he mentioned this in the State of the Union,” Smith said.

They will need to come up with strategies to stop the President from putting them into effect, according to Smith. 

After the discussion, Smith mentioned there are plans to address high prescription drug costs. 

“That was a big part of some of our legislation that we have been working on,” Smith said. “About lower costs, the bill that we just passed out of the committee last week deals with the whole vertical integration of PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers) and pharmacies, the profiting that some of these in-between folks are having and how to help deliver lower costs when it comes to drug prices.”

Smith continued by saying the comments he received will be extremely helpful to him as he develops his legislative priorities in Washington. 

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