Mass. Nursing Home Strike Bills Come Due

  1. Nursing Home Strike Bills Come Due

    The Hartford Courant
    July 28, 2001

    How much of the nursing homes' bills for "strike-related" costs incurred during the recent union walkout should taxpayers pick up?

    That's what an auditor hired by the state Department of Social Services will be determining in the coming weeks, as the firm reviews reams of documents provided by nursing homes seeking state reimbursement.

    Gov. John G. Rowland had authorized the state to make up-front payments to the 39 affected homes for replacement workers and other strike-related expenses necessary to protect "the health and safety" of residents. The homes have had to document their costs to the state.

    No total is available of the bills submitted.

    The New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, which represents the workers who went on strike in March and May, is raising questions about some of the homes' claims for reimbursement. Among them: a request for reimbursement from one nursing-home chain for $5,299 to cover airfare and hotel rooms for managers and employees of the company who were called in from California and other states during a one-day strike in March; a $500 payment made by most homes to the statewide nursing-home association for a "public relations campaign"; and tens of thousands of dollars in fees to lawyers for strike-related work.

    "It's hard to justify these expenses as protecting the health and safety of residents," said Deborah Chernoff, spokeswoman for the union.

    Toni Fatone, executive vice president of the Connecticut Association of Healthcare Facilities, said the homes will abide by what the state determines as "allowable" costs under Medicaid rules. She said the homes aren't expecting all their bills to be covered, but they believe their legal costs are eligible. Even with reimbursement, the homes will have to absorb an average of 30 percent of their eligible costs, she said.

    The state Department of Social Services, in a memo earlier this year to the nursing homes, said that replacement staffing, transportation of workers, security and "reasonable legal fees" related to the strike would be eligible for reimbursement.

    State officials plan to seek federal Medicaid reimbursement for some of the costs. The bulk of the state's tab is for replacement workers, who were paid about twice the typical wage of union workers.
    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Jul 31, '01
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  3. by   -jt
    <<Mass. Nursing Home Strike Bills Come Due >>

    pssssst, karen..... thats Conneticut! ; )
  4. by   NRSKarenRN
    Thanks, JT. State corrected. Some days the fingers type faster thaan brain functions!
  5. by   NRSKarenRN
    Suit Challenges State's Payment Of Strike Costs
    The Hartford Courant
    July 31, 2001

    For the second time this year, the union representing nursing home workers is going to court to try to bar the state from reimbursing nursing homes for strike-related costs.

    New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, announced Monday that it has filed a lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court challenging the state Department of Social Services' payments of more than $20 million to 39 nursing homes for costs incurred during strikes in March and May. The suit claims that the department lacked the legal authority to make upfront payments to the homes for strike-related costs, and that it violated state law by adopting a "direct reimbursement" policy without the requisite public notice.

    A hearing on the union's request for an injunction is set for Aug. 27.

    The union's challenge follows a federal lawsuit it filed against Gov. John G. Rowland's administration, alleging that strike-related payments to nursing homes violated the neutrality called for in the federal National Labor Relations Act. A federal judge in April rejected the union's request for an injunction barring the payments, citing Rowland's contention that the state was protecting the "health and safety" of nursing home residents. The federal suit is still pending.

    Dean Pagani, a spokesman for Rowland, said Monday that the governor had authorized the payments after conferring with state lawyers. He said Rowland's intent was to ensure that residents were cared for.

    David Dearborn, a spokesman for Social Services Commissioner Patricia Wilson-Coker, who is named as a defendant, said the federal court's refusal to intervene was a "good indication" that the state was within its rights.

    Jerry Brown, president of District 1199, said the state had "violated the public trust" by adopting an improper reimbursement policy during the strike. The union alleges that the questionable reimbursements started in 1999, when workers at a handful of homes staged short-term walkouts.

    "This new policy has illegally interfered with contract negotiations and may lead to more strikes, and longer ones, at nursing homes in the coming months," Brown said.

    The lawsuit alleges that the state's strike subsidies have contributed to the union's inability to secure fair contracts for its members. Although union employees at the 39 homes have been back to work for weeks, workers at 18 homes have not yet signed new contracts, said Deborah Chernoff, a union spokeswoman.

    The state made expedited payments to the homes based on their anticipated expenses. Now, an auditor hired by the social services department is reviewing documentation provided by the homes to determine if the payments should be adjusted. Chernoff said the lawsuit seeks to recoup money already paid out and to bar similar payments in the future.