Stuart H. Shapiro, a nursing-home industry lobbyist, and his co-authors paint a completely misleading picture of that industry's true financial health ("Budget plan fails frail elderly," May 22). Pennsylvanians should know just how well our state's nursing homes have fared - and how much of the commonwealth's tax dollars they really consume.

Pennsylvania ranks sixth in the nation in terms of population but is second in spending on nursing homes - $3 billion a year. And while the nursing-home industry claims it has suffered "cuts" from the state, total state payments to nursing homes actually grew 34 percent faster than the rate of inflation over the last five years.

Reimbursement increases received by nursing homes over the last five years have exceeded increases in state funding for child care, mental retardation, community mental health, and higher education. State funding for all programs to aid older Pennsylvanians grew much faster than spending on public education.

Pennsylvania taxpayers now provide more than $67,000 a year for each state-subsidized nursing-home resident. That translates to $310 in state payments for nursing-home care from every man, woman and child living in the commonwealth.

Since I took office, the daily reimbursement rate that Pennsylvania pays to nursing homes has risen 22 percent. Today, Pennsylvania nursing homes can claim with pride that they are among the best paid in the nation, with rates more than 20 percent higher than the national average. In fact, according to recent data compiled by the American Health Care Association, payments to Pennsylvania nursing homes are the fifth highest of the 32 states that provided data for the study.

Pennsylvania's nursing homes deliver the same care to the same types of patients as nursing homes in every other state - and they are paid very well for the care they deliver.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell

Harrisburg