Nursing Homes Fear Residents Will Go Homeless Due To State Budget Shortfall

Tuesday, April 11th 2017, 10:39 pm
By: News On 6

A state health care group is warning lawmakers to avoid cutting Medicaid, or else nursing home residents could end up homeless.

The Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers estimates if the state cuts just 10 percent of Medicaid funds, more than half of the state's nursing homes will have to close down.

What does that mean for Oklahoma's elderly, like 90-year-old Travis Belk?

Belk lives at The Gardens, a skilled nursing facility in Sapulpa.

"It's my second home," Belk said.

The facility is Mr. Belk's only home.

He can't live with his daughter because she's also a resident at The Gardens, and his son has a serious illness and can't care for him.

Belk is worried that someday, in the near future, he won't have a place to live.

"What will I do if they keep cutting the money that keeps coming to the nursing home?" Belk asked. "Where will I live? What will I do?"

Valerie Bomar, administrator of The Gardens, said the industry is begging lawmakers not to cut Medicaid like they've done every year for the past several years.

"Oklahoma needs to take care of us now," Bomar said. "The nursing homes need help."

The issue, Bomar explained, is people are living longer because of better medical care and technology. That means more people are outliving their own savings accounts and need a place to live once those funds run out.

The Gardens, for example, has nearly 100 residents - the average age is 85 years old.

Meanwhile, state funds are disappearing. The situation is dire, Bomar said.

"If homes close down, those waiting lists are going to be even longer," she said (The Gardens' waiting list has about 17 names on it right now). "But eventually people are just not going to be served. And I mean, it could turn into, what, homelessness? Where are they going to live - shelters?"

Belk and his generation are counting on lawmakers to remember them.

"Sometimes they leave the old folks behind," Belk lamented.