Nursing Home-less

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The St. Andrews Health and Rehabilitation Center in Panama City has at least one resident go to the hospital on a daily basis, although they usually return within a couple of days.

Under a proposal by Gov. Jeb Bush, someone on Medicaid may lose their bed if they go to the hospital. Debra Boatwright is the nurse manager at St. Andrews, and says the state Medicaid covers 100 percent of the cost of the bed while a patient is in the hospital.

"Presently, if a patient is on Medicaid and goes to the hospital, the state pays for eight days of bed-hold. So, when the patient is released from the hospital, their bed is held."

She says it's important for the patient to know they have a home.

"I think it's very poor for continuity of care. I think patients respond better, heal better in their own environment."

Bush's proposal to eliminate the bed-hold is estimated to save $23 million, a small chunk compared to the $300 million cuts he proposes to this year's nursing home budget.

The joint house-Senate committee on nursing homes even agreed Monday that modifications need to be made to the bed-hold policy. Martha Hudson is one of about 60 residents at St. Andrews who is on Medicaid.

She says no one wants to worry about losing their home because they're sick.

"That would really wreck them up, they would be sicker than ever worrying about coming back here. I feel at home everyday. I wouldn't take nothing from where I live."

But if the proposal makes its way through the Legislature, Hudson might be forced to pack her bag for each visit to the hospital, unless her family can pay a day charge to hold her bed, an option not available to most of the low-income seniors in Florida on Medicaid.