Another negative ranking puts Oklahoma in the bad company of other Southern states, this time in the quality of nursing home care. Such reports sometimes provide ammo for partisan warriors intent on painting red states as Neanderthals in social services while blue states are cast as progressive and inspiring.
That won't happen in the case of a nursing home “report card” issued last month by Families for Better Care. While Oklahoma got an F and was ranked 48th in the nation, about half of the 11 states given a failing grade are blue states, including New York and Illinois. Also, half of the 10 states that got an A are red states.
Families for Better Care ranked states based on registered nurse staffing, health inspections, deficiencies and other criteria. Oklahoma has never been an exemplar when it comes to nursing homes. A prime reason is the low rates paid to nursing homes by Medicaid, the program under which most nursing home residents in Oklahoma are covered for long-term care.
The state has increased its Medicaid payments over the years, but the industry says the rate remains below the cost of providing care. The 2013 Legislature did pass a nursing home reform bill, to allow video surveillance in resident rooms. This may help reduce cases of abuse and neglect, but it will do little to alleviate inadequate staffing.
Nursing home care isn't really a red state-blue state issue, but state Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, politicized the report card by reminding citizens that Republican House Speaker T.W. Shannon nixed an interim study on improving nursing home care. Please note that Morrissette is also critical of the state's decision to reject an Obamacare Medicaid expansion that would cost the state $850 million over 10 years.
Finding more Medicaid money for nursing homes wouldn't be helped by taking an $85 million-a-year (on average) hit for other Medicaid services.