Money tight for care homes

Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series of stories investigating conditions in Oklahoma's group homes for the mentally disabled, mentally ill and elderly. The investigation was conducted by reporters from the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman.
By Vallery Brown The Oklahoman Staff Writer & Ginnie Graham - Tulsa World Staff Writer Published: February 22, 2010

Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series of stories investigating conditions in Oklahoma's group homes for the mentally disabled, mentally ill and elderly. The investigation was conducted by reporters from the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman.

A proposed cut in funding could financially cripple homes for the mentally disabled.

Residents at these facilities pay a portion of their living expenses. The remainder is subsidized by federal Medicaid funds, which is set by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

The rate is $154.10 a day per person, but administrators say the actual cost ranges from $160 to $200 a day.

A budget agreement approved Thursday allocates an additional $33 million to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to help offset a 6.75 percent reimbursement rate cut to providers. Agency officials will go to their board in March and recommend rate cuts be held at 3.25 percent.

David Svedman, chief executive officer for Home of Hope in Vinita, said Medicaid is nearly the entire budget in serving about 200 mentally disabled people. Employee wages account for about 80 percent of the budget.

“... this cut would be devastating for us, who are already suffering financially. Unlike a hospital, doctor or some clinics, we do not bill insurance or private pay. We are 99 percent Medicaid funded.”

To make up that difference, many homes hold fundraisers and seek grants.

Employee wage increases have ceased except for bumps if an employee meets a higher certification.