Since then, nursing home advocates have been lobbying the Christie administration and lawmakers for some relief from cuts they say could in time force them to cut staff or services. Struyk said his board has voted to put off filling 20 open positions, but doesn't know what the future impact will be.
Advocates say county-operated nursing homes also could be among the most hurt by the rate changes as they tend to serve patients who are predominantly on Medicaid.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, outgoing chairwoman of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee, said she is discussing potential solutions with other legislative leaders but doubts anything could be done in the current fiscal year to roll back cuts, as some nursing home operators are hoping.
To help nursing homes fare better in the next round of Medicaid budget talks, Weinberg urged nursing home advocates to enlist the people they serve — patients and their families — to help lobby for money to be restored during next year's budget negotiations.
"I think these cuts are harmful, and they are harmful to the most vulnerable of populations," Weinberg said. "We need to hear from the people who are affected. We need their voices on this."
The Jewish Home at Rockleigh is among the facilities hit by a higher-than-expected cut. Charles Berkowitz, president and chief executive of the not-for-profit home, said he expects to lose $317,000 a year because of the 8 percent cut to his facility's daily Medicaid rate. In addition, another change in state regulations now bars nursing homes from billing Medicaid for the beds they hold open for patients temporarily admitted to the hospital, which they are required to do for 10 days. That change means another annual loss of $40,000, Berkowitz estimates.
That lost revenue, which comes on top of even-steeper Medicare rate reductions to all nursing homes this year, has prompted the non-profit Jewish Home to turn to its residents, their families and other supporters for help in lobbying state officials to restore some funds cut from Medicaid.