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Ricketts plans to temporarily raise rates paid to some health and human service providers

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Nebraska hospital leaders warned Monday that the state's health systems are getting hammered by rising COVID numbers and staffing shortages.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced plans Wednesday to temporarily raise rates paid to some care providers in the hopes of stabilizing their operations in the midst of workforce shortages and increased costs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ricketts said in a news release that the rate increases are expected to cost $61 million. He made the announcement one day before unveiling his budget proposals for the two fiscal years ending June 30, 2023.

“Our state’s health service providers have done heroic work over the past two years to care for Nebraskans,” Ricketts said. “As they manage the pressures of the pandemic and persistent workforce shortages, the proposed rate increases will offer much-needed assistance."

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will need to get approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for increases for targeted Medicaid-funded services. Increases for child welfare service providers do not need federal approval.

If approved, the rates will be retroactive to Jan. 1 and will be good through June 30. 

The plan would provide a 15% increase in rates for three programs that provides home- and community-based services, one for people over age 65 and people with disabilities and two that serve people with developmental disabilities. It would boost daily payments to assisted-living facilities and nursing homes by $20 per bed per day, as it did earlier in the pandemic. 

The state also is planning for a child welfare provider rate increase to $25 per hour for travel and $55 per hour for family support. Those rates help facilitate travel and visitation services for children and families involved in the child welfare system.

Providers in those fields have struggled to find workers, as well as cope with increased costs, and have turned to lawmakers for help. So far, Sen. John Stinner of Gering, the Appropriations Committee chairman, has introduced a bill to increase rates paid to developmental disability service providers through the current two-year budget period. 

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