BOSTON—With a unanimous vote, the Massachusetts Senate overrode Governor Charlie Baker's veto of $7.5 million in Medicaid nursing facility funding for the FY 2018 budget.
Nearly 70% of skilled nursing home residents have their care paid for by MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. For nearly a decade state Medicaid reimbursements for nursing home care has flatlined, while the cost of caring for the state’s most vulnerable population has increased substantially. Skilled nursing facilities are underfunded by $37 per day, per patient, a situation that has put the sector in an unprecedented financial crisis. Three-quarters of the state’s nursing facilities have a combined negative margin of 4.4%.
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. “We are grateful to our lawmakers for understanding the critical need to increase funding so that we may invest in our dedicated frontline workers who care for our residents around the clock,” said Tara Gregorio, President of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association (MSCA). “Our facilities become homes for tens of thousands of residents each year. As always, our goal is to deliver the highest quality of care and that takes increased investment.”
The lack of investment in the nursing facility skilled workforce makes it difficult to attract and retain staff. Currently 1 in 7 nursing positions remains unfilled---a significant jump from 2016, where 1 in 10 positions were vacant.
MSCA first launched the Quality Jobs for Quality Care Campaign in 2015 calling for $90 million necessary to provide a pathway to a living wage for nursing home workers. Last year the Baker-Polito Administration and the legislature recognized the importance of wage increases for frontline staff, with the state budget ultimately providing a $35.5 million for one-time wage increases for 8 designated positions. This year’s additional $7.5 brings the total to $43 million. The MSCA will continue to seek the full $90 million needed.
Nursing home facilities are the second largest health care 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 150,000 people a year; employ more than 77,000 staff members; and contribute more than $4 billion annually to the Massachusetts economy.