The long-time head of the state’s powerful nursing home lobby has resigned after months of internal differences in the organization.
The resignation of Jon Howell, first reported by Georgia Health News, came only a few months after he told lawmakers that the industry didn’t need all of the money Gov. Nathan Deal recommended as part of a rate hike for select nursing homes. Several of those nursing homes are owned by one of Deal’s top contributors.
But one state official said the “civil war” within the organization began before this year’s General Assembly session.
The nursing home association is a major player at the statehouse, and owners have a big stake in what happens at the Capitol. The state pays more than $1 billion a year to nursing homes to care for Georgians. Owners have long been politically active, donating big money to state leaders and lawmakers who fund reimbursements.
Earlier this year, Deal recommended that select nursing homes get a $27 million a year rate increase, a bump stalled by the Department of Community Health board last year.
The industry has long been a major campaign backer of Deal’s, as it has been for past governors from both parties. Contributions flowed in after the DCH board stalled the rate increase in September, including more than $60,000 in one day to Deal’s re-election campaign about two weeks after the proposal was pulled.
The increase — originally designed to go to the owners of about 40 nursing homes bought after Jan. 1, 2012 — was stalled after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and members of the DCH board raised questions about it. Industry officials pitched it as a way to provide extra money to new owners who upgraded their facilities, but advocates for the elderly said there was no guarantee how the money would be spent.