This Week’s Legislative Column From Senator Mike Cunningham

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Improving Missouri’s Long-Term Care

Access to quality long-term care is a top priority for over 10 million Americans in need. The broad range of medical, personal and social services provided through long-term care facilities support our state’s elderly, sick and disabled – including many Missouri veterans who have served and sacrificed for our safety.

Even though these millions of Americans are in need of long-term care, many of our care facilities are under occupied, which is resulting in a financially unsustainable industry. Missouri is the ninth-lowest state in the nation when it comes to long-term care facility occupancy rates. According to a report by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the average occupancy rate of certified beds in nursing facilities throughout the state is just 72.5 percent – meaning over a quarter of the beds are unoccupied.

In an effort to better address the needs of Missouri’s veterans, disabled, elderly and ill, I will be chairing a new Senate Interim Committee on Long-Term Care, which was just appointed by the president pro tem this Session. My responsibilities as chairman of the Committee will be to conduct in-depth studies and make recommendations concerning the certification and maintenance of current facilities, the potential methods to improve the quality of care and the ways to reduce costs within the industry.

The issue of underutilization of these facilities is an important and expensive concern. The average annual cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is $51,000. Even though some residents of long-term care are able to afford these high costs, many others have to seek aid from government programs or family members. These high costs could be blocking some Missourians who need this type of care from obtaining the quality help they need to live a decent and happy life. My Committee will be investigating this issue in order to build a more equitable and sustainable future for our state’s veterans, elderly and in-need residents.

Seven members of the Senate were appointed by the president pro tem – five from the Majority Caucus, two from the Minority Caucus. The Committee is responsible for compiling and presenting a final report on its findings and recommendations to the Senate by Dec. 31, 2016, and will begin hearings and investigations this September.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.