Provider rate increase sought

Certain behavioral health providers would receive a rate increase under a bill considered Feb. 25 by the Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Myron Dorn
Sen. Myron Dorn

LB462, introduced by Sen. Myron Dorn of Adams, would provide a 3 percent rate increase for behavior health providers for fiscal year 2021-22 and 3 percent for FY2022-23 under the state’s Medicaid program.

Dorn said Medicaid expansion has exacerbated the ongoing problem of low provider rates in Nebraska, which he said remain far below the cost of providing services. Federal CARES Act dollars have not helped, he said, because they only cover costs associated with the pandemic.

“It has been very difficult for hospitals, clinics and individual providers to maintain services in their communities if every day they lose money,” Dorn said. “We have a choice to make: to continue to invest in a very important system of care that has a proven track record or fall back into complacency that we have done enough.”

Pat Connell, speaking on behalf of the Nebraska Child Health and Education Alliance, testified in support of the bill. He said that 25 mental health provider organizations have gone out of business in Nebraska because they could not cover their costs — not because demand has diminished.

“You can’t have adequate capacity without adequate provider rates,” Connell said.

John Day, executive director of Blue Valley Behavioral Health, also testified in support. Representing the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, he said providers have seen an increase in the number of individuals seeking help for anxiety, mental health and substance use issues during the pandemic.

“The one true reality that does exist is the emotional and psychological impact that [the pandemic] has had on all of us,” Day said. “We don’t see the lingering effects of COVID going away anytime soon.”

No one appeared at the hearing in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action.

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