A bill that would allow nursing facilities to transfer or sell nursing bed capacity was advanced by the House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday for consideration by the full chamber.

SDAHO opposes House Bill 1003, which emerged from the summer Interim Committee on Regulation of Nursing and Assisted Living Beds. An earlier motion to kill the bill by sending it to the 41st legislative day was replaced by a “do pass” recommendation, which passed the committee on an 8-5 vote.

The bill would allow a licensed nursing facility to transfer or sell nursing bed capacity to another facility, which would have to license the beds within 24 months. The receiving facility would be required to have an annual minimum Medicaid occupancy rate of no less than 50 below the statewide average at the time rates are established for the newly licensed beds and have an approved program or affiliation with a home and community-based care provider.

South Dakota has 110 licensed nursing homes with 6,855 licensed beds. The state’s moratorium number is 8,039 beds, leaving nearly 1,200 beds not licensed.

Kim Malsam-Rysdon, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Health, said the state has effective ways to get nursing home beds where they are needed, and the department will have 150 beds to redistribute in the spring through a request for proposals. She said the department doesn’t believe that nursing home beds are commodities, and allowing their sale is inappropriate.

Jen Porter, SDAHO’s vice president of post-acute care, told the panel that the state has effective ways to meet the needs of facilities, and House Bill 1003 would unfairly favor communities with more resources.

The bill would hurt small frontier rural communities like Kadoka, which is licensed for 30 beds and has a long waiting list. Kadoka’s building is more than 50 years old, and the facility doesn’t have the cash to buy additional beds because the vast majority of its payments are using Medicaid.

Deb Fischer-Clemens, Avera Health’s senior vice president of public policy, said that although a health system could benefit from having the ability to move beds between its facilities across the state, the current RFP adequately addresses the need for additional beds.

Rep. Wayne Steinhauer, the bill’s sponsor who also chaired the interim committee, was the only person to speak in favor of the bill. Steinhauer testified that House Bill 1003 is important because parent organizations own multiple beds scattered across the state and he believes it’s time to allow for a little bit of free enterprise. He said House Bill 1003 is not a perfect solution, but it’s one step to get a process in place.