Senators Reintroduce Bill to Ensure Fair Medicare Payments, Make Cost-Of-Living Adjustment For Alaska, Hawai‘i Nursing Homes

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today reintroduced legislation that will provide for fair Medicare payments for nursing facilities in Hawai‘i and Alaska. The bipartisan Equitable Payments for Nursing Facilities Act will authorize a cost-of-living adjustment at skilled nursing facilities in those states to take into account the higher costs of delivering care.

“Nursing homes are on the front lines of this pandemic and need all the support they can get to care for our most vulnerable residents,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill fixes the Medicare reimbursement rates so that Hawai‘i nursing homes get their fair share of federal dollars and have the resources to continue to provide high quality care.”

“Long term care facilities fill a critical need in our communities, especially in caring for Alaska’s aging population,” said Senator Murkowski. “This bill makes a simple, but necessary change to ensure cost of living adjustments are considered for skilled nursing facility payments in Alaska and Hawai‘i, bringing parity with how hospitals are treated. I’m proud to join my colleagues in addressing this discrepancy to help give greater support to these important health care facilities.”

“Skilled nursing facilities provide essential health services in Hawai‘i—but their work is hamstrung by reimbursement rates that do not take into account the high cost of doing business in the state. Our bill will make sure that these facilities have the resources they need to care for our communities,” said Senator Hirono.

“As the largest state in the country and with some of the most rugged geography, Alaska’s health care ranks among the most expensive and challenging to provide, a disparity that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Senator Sullivan. “Through these challenges, our skilled nursing facilities have taken on an enormous share of the burden, doing excellent work taking care of our seniors in spite of being short staffed. Our legislation will authorize an appropriate and timely increase in Medicare payments that reflect the disproportionate costs of living in Alaska and Hawaii—making sure these nursing facilities stay open, our health care workers are paid, and our seniors are in good care.”

While hospitals and certain other health care facilities in Hawai‘i and Alaska receive a cost-of-living adjustment under Medicare to account for higher non-wage costs, such as rent and utilities, than in other states, nursing facilities do not, making it more difficult for these critical nursing homes to operate.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Kai Kahele (D-Hawai‘i), Don Young (R-Alaska), and Ed Case (D-Hawai‘i).