OPINION

Op-ed: An advocate for our most vulnerable residents

By SCOTT FRASER
Posted 10/28/20

The Rhode Island Health Care Association believes Speaker Nicolas Mattiello deserves the votes of his constituents for many reasons, but particularly for his consideration of the most vulnerable in …

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OPINION

Op-ed: An advocate for our most vulnerable residents

Posted

The Rhode Island Health Care Association believes Speaker Nicolas Mattiello deserves the votes of his constituents for many reasons, but particularly for his consideration of the most vulnerable in our communities, our elderly. We would be remiss if we didn’t speak on his behalf.

In our experience, Nick Mattiello is a man of his word. Sure, there are times you may not agree with his approach or times you may not possess the same view on a topic, but there is no question he will let you know his position clearly and give you reasons for it. He will always take a meeting to listen to you. He is not a person who will try to pull one over on you or do something behind your back once you leave the office. What he says is what he does, and that has been refreshing  for our organizations.


Since 2012, RI governors have cut Medicaid reimbursement to nursing homes despite a law that year requiring an annual nursing home inflationary adjustment of about three percent. This djustment was to meet the rising cost of healthcare supplies, rehabilitation expenses, nutritious ood and staff pay. In fact, 70 cents of every dollar provided by Medicaid goes to staffing.

Speaker Mattiello has chosen a different tact. Recognizing every one of the 83 nursing homes in Rhode Island is a small business; recognizing the economic impact of employing 10,000 people in our communities; and recognizing nursing homes play a critical role in the spectrum of care available to our most frail elderly, Nick Mattiello has protected our residents and workers. Year after year, he has restored a portion of the administration’s budget cuts to keep our frail elderly residents safe and secure. This year, Speaker Mattiello stood up for nursing homes again. As a local and national union pushed legislation harmful to our members (utilizing our small businesses as a way to grow their membership) he refused to give in to their pressure. Instead of blindly passing a bill claiming to be for the workers in our nursing homes, he listened to both sides. He heard loudly and clearly from more than 60 nursing home staff and administrators who testified at a State House hearing that an unfunded $44 million staffing mandate would put homes out of business.


Continually forward-looking, Speaker Mattiello instead supported the creation of a Nursing Home Commission. This group of health care experts, legislators and the union will come together to hear testimony about the state of our industry including the impacts of COVID-19, the cost of staffing, and the need for funding, among other topics. This Commission represents a thorough approach to assessing the needs of an important industry and will set the tone for the future of nursing homes in our state. The unions were frustrated with this comprehensive approach to vetting their bill, and since have skewered a number of representatives who voted in its favor.

On Dec. 21, 2019, an editorial by The Providence Journal entitled “Little appetite for tax hikes,” referred to House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s thoughts on taxes, stating, “He noted that Rhode Island is rightly committed to compassionate government, spending a great deal for education,
hospitals and nursing homes.”


That quote was before COVID-19. It was before our schools were to close down for three months and struggle to get back in the fall. It was before our hospitals were taking in hundreds of those who would fall severely ill. And, it was months before our nursing homes became ground zero for the worst pandemic in 100 years. Nick Mattiello knew where critical funding needed to go before a crisis. He knew we needed to secure the lives of our most vulnerable residents – our children, our sick and our elderly.

We commend the speaker for his forethought, preparedness and for his willingness to listen to the arguments on both sides – whether he agrees or not. We also thank him for his more reasoned approach to health care issues that have a significant impact on our workers, our residents
and on our small businesses.


Scott Fraser is the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, which
represents 64 nursing home members in the state.

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