There is great variability in how much nursing home providers are paid for a day of care for a Medicaid recipient, how the payment level is set, and what mechanisms are used to reimburse facilities. Given the absence of recent, comprehensive in-depth analyses of state reimbursement systems, this article undertakes a comparative case analysis of Medicaid nursing facility reimbursement in Alabama, California, Minnesota, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Findings indicate that states design their methods of reimbursement to achieve desired policy outcomes related to facility cost and quality, access to care, payment equity, service capacity, and budgetary control. The result, however, has been the development of enormously complex and demanding rate-setting methodologies, the adverse consequences of which can outweigh and overwhelm the discrete policy objectives contained in the reimbursement formula. This complexity highlights the potential trade-off between achieving desired goals and costly administrative burdens, opportunities for appeal and disagreement, difficulties understanding the ramifications of system changes, reliance on simplified decision-making rules, and exclusion of otherwise interested parties from the policy process.

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