BOSTON— In an overwhelming and bipartisan show of support, 123 Massachusetts Representatives and Senators have signed on as co-sponsors to a nursing home stabilization bill that would better enable nursing facilities to meet the daily care needs for their residents and employees.
Every year more than 150,000 Massachusetts residents rely on skilled nursing facilities to provide quality care when they can no longer live safely in their home, and when they are undergoing rehabilitation services after a short hospital stay so they can return home safely.
But the ability of nursing facility care providers to render quality of care is in jeopardy, due to an extended period of government disinvestment in Medicaid nursing facility care.
Consequently, the Commonwealth’s nursing facilities face dire financial and staffing challenges. According to an analysis of the most recent government data, nearly 60% of the state’s 410 nursing facilities are operating in the red. The nursing facility provider community had a cumulative loss of $62 million according to the report.
A large part of the reason for the negative budgets is that 66% of nursing facility residents rely on MassHealth to cover the cost of their care. While Medicaid never pays the true cost of care for its members, for nursing homes MassHealth pays only 85% of what is defined as allowable expenses.
Today MassHealth reimburses facilities $37 per day below the cost of providing quality resident care. This gap has increased from $21 per day in 2007 making Massachusetts the fourth worst in the nation for underfunding quality nursing facility care.
This is unsustainable and will be reflected in the quality of care nursing homes can provide. Because three-quarters of a nursing facility’s budget is used to fund employee wages and benefits, a facility’s ability to invest in staff is directly tied to state funding. Chronic MassHealth underfunding and cuts have resulted in only small investments in the nursing facility skilled workforce, making it extremely difficult to attract and retain staff. Currently 1 in 10 nursing positions remains unfilled---a significant jump from 2015.
House bill 2072, sponsored by Representative Thomas Golden Jr., and Senate bill 336, sponsored by Senator Harriette Chandler are part of the solution to this funding and staffing crisis. Both bills call for amending state law to require MassHealth to update funding for quality nursing home care to more accurately reflect the true cost of caring for Medicaid residents. This would begin the process of reinvesting in nursing facility resident care and staff. The Joint Committee on Elder Affairs will hold hearing on the bill September 11 at 1pm in Room A1 at the State House.
“We are grateful for the tremendous support and leadership from lawmakers who understand the need and importance of investing in quality nursing facility care,” said Tara Gregorio, President of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association (MSCA). “As the baby boom population increases there will be an even greater need for our facilities and it is critical that we close the gap between MassHealth funding and the cost of providing the highest quality of resident care.”
Nursing home facilities are the second largest employer in the state, employing more than 77,000 individuals.
ABOUT MSCA: The Massachusetts Senior Care Association represents a diverse set of organizations that deliver a broad spectrum of services to meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities. Its members include more than 400 nursing and rehabilitation facilities, assisted living residences, residential care facilities and continuing care retirement communities. Forming a crucial link in the continuum of care, Mass Senior Care facilities provide housing, health care and support services to more than 120,000 people a year; employ more than 77,000 staff members; and contribute more than $4 billion annually to the Massachusetts economy.