House panel trims nursing home moratorium to one year

A panel of House lawmakers has approved a one-year ban on the construction of new nursing homes across the state amid concerns the market is being flooded.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 12-7 Thursday in favor of the moratorium. The Senate authors of the measure originally sought a five-year moratorium on new construction, but Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, suggested the length be trimmed back to one year to give lawmakers time to decide if a ban is needed.

The ban is at the center of an ongoing debate between the state's existing nursing homes and developers leading a wave of construction across the state in anticipation of retiring baby boomers.

The son of a powerful House Republican lawmaker is among the developers opposing the ban. Zeke Turner, CEO of Mainstreet Property Group, testified Thursday that his new homes are providing better senior care at the same cost as older nursing homes.

"I urge you oppose this bill," Zeke Turner said. "Don't rush this through and in a short session, take time to really consider the impact before we go and change state law."

His father, Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, serves on the Ways and Means Committee, but was excused from voting on the issue. Turner also serves on the House Public Health Committee, which approved the five-year ban on construction earlier this week, and abstained from voting then, as well.

Kathy Williams, a lobbyist for the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging, testified that the state saves more money when elderly residents are cared for in their own homes instead of a nursing home. But the construction of new homes, she said, will drive up pressure from those developers and nursing home companies to fill the new beds.

"Our concern is if nursing home beds continue to grow, there will be more pressure on people to go to nursing homes," she said.

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