Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bob Krist said Wednesday that Gov. Pete Ricketts "has placed Nebraska's aging population at risk" because of his budget cuts that impact skilled nursing and assisted-living facilities.
"The cuts include tens of millions of dollars in reductions to vital health care services, as well as more than $58 million in cuts to provider rates in just the past two years," Krist said during a news conference in Lincoln.
Those reductions create "dangerous risks to our most vulnerable aging population," he said.
"Facilities will continue to be at risk unless Medicaid reimbursement for seniors is a priority in our state budget," the Omaha senator said.
Responding to Krist's remarks, Ricketts campaign communications director Matthew Trail said "Nebraskans really need to question if they can believe a word Bob Krist says."
"In the face of a revenue shortfall, Gov. Ricketts worked with the Legislature to protect nursing homes, in addition to providing two increases in funding," Trail said.
Currently, 53 percent of nursing facility residents and 25 percent of assisted-living residents in Nebraska rely on Medicaid funding for the care they receive, Krist said. Medicaid pays an average of $25 less than the cost of care per day for each resident, he added.
Heath Boddy, president of the Nebraska Health Care Association, recently told media representatives that 25 facilities have gone out of business since 2015, according to Krist, and Boddy said he "believes a lack of Medicaid funding is a big part of the problem."
Recent court orders have placed 21 nursing facilities and 10 assisted-living facilities in 19 Nebraska counties in receivership, Krist said.
"The governor does not get it or does not care," he said.
"He issued a line-item veto that resulted in Medicaid provider rate cuts across the board that directly impacted health care providers and the health care services of the most fragile of our senior population."
If he's elected governor, Krist said, he's prepared to "think outside the box" and consider new funding sources, such as eliminating or reducing some current tax incentives that he described as "giveaway programs."
Krist also pointed to a bill that would begin collection of state sales taxes already owed on internet purchases. That's a measure that Ricketts opposed, pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn its previous ruling that sharply limited such collections.
If elected, Krist said, "we're going to try to solve problems."
Joining him at the news conference in the Haymarket was Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.