Monday, March 8, 2010

Senate Republican Caucus Pushes for Repeal of State's Controversial Nursing Home Tax

The Massachusetts Senate Republican Caucus is pushing for the repeal of the state's controversial nursing home tax on non-Medicare patients.

The tax was introduced in 2002, and was recently increased by the Patrick Administration to $19.17 a day. Over the last eight years, the Caucus has repeatedly filed legislation and offered budget amendments to eliminate the tax.

The latest Caucus proposal, Senate Bill 305, was filed in January of 2009 and heard by the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs on May 6, 2009. Ten months after the hearing, the bill is still awaiting committee action.

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei has written to the committee on behalf of the Caucus to ask that the bill be reported out with a favorable recommendation. If the committee does not release the bill, the Caucus is prepared to file another budget amendment to repeal the nursing home tax.

The following is the text of Senator Tisei's letter:

March 8, 2010

The Honorable Patricia D. Jehlen, Senate Chair
The Honorable Alice K. Wolf, House Chair
Joint Committee on Elder Affairs
State House, Room 167
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Chairwoman Jehlen & Chairwoman Wolf:

I am writing to urge that you take swift and favorable action on Senate Bill 305, An Act to Repeal the Nursing Home Tax, which is currently pending before the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs.

The nursing home tax - which was first implemented as part of the Fiscal Year 2003 state budget - constitutes an onerous penalty that unfairly targets those individuals who had the foresight to plan ahead and save for their long-term health care needs. Those who privately pay for their nursing home care and don't have to rely on the state for assistance should not be penalized by having to pay a tax.

When the nursing home tax was first introduced, non-Medicare patients were being assessed $9.60 a day. Now they are being charged $19.17 a day, nearly double the original assessment. To charge private-pay patients an additional $575 a month is not only unfair, but counterproductive, and places an unnecessary financial burden on our seniors and their families.

The Lowell Sun recently reported that only $15 of the $19.17 collected actually finds its way back into the system. The rest is being used by the Patrick Administration to help balance the state budget, and not for its original purpose of helping nursing homes remain financially solvent.

I have opposed the nursing home tax as bad public policy since its inception, and have been actively working for its repeal ever since. The Senate Republican Caucus has offered a series of repeal bills and budget amendments in each of the last four legislative sessions, and is prepared to raise this issue again during the upcoming budget debate if the committee fails to act in a timely manner.

As a member of the Elder Affairs Committee, I am urging you to expedite the bill's release from the committee with a favorable report. Doing so will allow the House and Senate to begin the process of repealing this misguided tax once and for all.

Richard R. Tisei