GOP pushes refund of bed tax

By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — Republican lawmakers are proposing to refund to elderly New Mexicans the money they paid because of a state tax imposed on nursing homes.

U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, a Republican who represents the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District, also is urging Gov. Bill Richardson to support rebating the tax to New Mexicans who paid it through higher care costs.

On Tuesday, Richardson announced that he was proposing the repeal of the nearly $9-a-day surcharge imposed on each occupied bed at nursing homes, residential treatment centers and intermediate care facilities for the mentally retarded.

The tax was approved in 2004 to help finance Medicaid, and under current law it’s scheduled to be eliminated in mid-2007.

A group of House and Senate Republicans said Wednesday they’re backing legislation that would repeal the tax this year and refund amounts paid by New Mexico residents.

In the past, lawmakers have been told that perhaps 1,000 people privately pay for nursing home care and potentially faced cost increases because of the tax. Those individuals or their families would pay the tax — potentially about $3,200 a year — if a care facility passed the surcharge along through higher rates. In some cases, private insurance or government programs like Medicaid cover the costs of nursing home care.

Republicans pushed unsuccessfully last year to repeal the tax and they’ve sought to make it a potential issue in Richardson’s re-election campaign. The state GOP, for example, mentioned the tax in a radio ad it broadcast late last year.

“We’re pushing to repeal the Richardson bed tax,” Rep. Justine Fox-Young, R-Albuquerque, said in a statement.