LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan recently said if Congress fails to pass Biden’s Build Back Better plan, it would be “one of their greatest failures ever” and would have “catastrophic human consequences” for older adults and their families. She believes the bill needs to include an expansion of home- and community-based services, help providers offer a living wage, and increase affordable senior housing.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and its Provider Relief Fund allowed the nursing home industry to survive their own incompetence and greed. Should taxpayers continue to bail out these profitable nursing homes?
Taxpayers give nursing homes billions every year without any guarantee on how the money is spent. Medicare paid nursing homes $27.8 billion in fiscal year 2019. But poor infection control practices from inadequate staffing was still the most common violation. This was before the pandemic, according to a GAO study.
However, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York have a funding solution. They increased funding but also set requirements for how to direct the spending. The nursing homes must spend money on staff and residents’ direct care. They also imposed spending limits on “administrative” expenses, “consulting fees”, and executive compensation. This is a great solution.
Elder advocates, consumer experts, and health care authorities agree that directing funds will increase staffing, quality of care, and the financial health of the facility instead of related corporate entities. Money should be spent on staff and meeting resident needs.
Charlene Harrington is the leading expert on safe staffing. She is professor emeritus at the University of California-San Francisco’s School of Nursing. Harrington spent decades studying nursing home staffing, reimbursement and regulation. She said:
“If they’re not able to pull so much money away from care and spend it on staffing and actual services, it should make a big difference. I would expect the quality of care would improve substantially.”