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Nursing home bed bill dies in House

PIERRE -- A bill that would have allowed nursing homes in South Dakota to sell and transfer beds was killed Wednesday in the state House of Representatives.

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South Dakota State Capitol
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PIERRE - A bill that would have allowed nursing homes in South Dakota to sell and transfer beds was killed Wednesday in the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 1003 was defeated 53-16. The result of a summer study on nursing home needs, it would have allowed:

• Operators of nursing homes to transfer unused beds to other facilities they own.

• Unused beds to be sold at whatever price the market yields.

Rep. Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford, was the main sponsor. He said the aim of the bill was to redistribute nursing home beds to the areas in South Dakota where they are most needed. Better that be done by free enterprise than the government, he said.

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But other representatives were concerned about what selling nursing home beds could do to the industry.

Rep. Karen Soli, D-Sioux Falls, argued that had the bill passed, beds would have gone to those willing to pay the most, not where they are most needed. And because Medicaid reimbursements are so low in South Dakota, a large part of the financial burden could have been shifted to private-pay nursing home residents, she said.

The bill does nothing to address the biggest problem nursing homes in South Dakota have - low pay that makes employee recruitment difficult and drives high turnover.

Since 1988, South Dakota has had a moratorium on the number of nursing home beds. That cap is 8,039. There are now 6,855 licensed beds in the state. Of them, 6,096 are occupied. That's 88.9 percent, or the second-highest occupancy rate in the nation, Steinhauer said.

Whether South Dakota has enough nursing home beds was never in question, only where they're located.

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