July 21, 2021
Contact: Eric Heisler, eheisler@phca.org
Cell: 717-678-1031

PHCA responds to out of touch, unattainable nursing home mandates proposed by Pennsylvania’s Department of Health

Harrisburg, Pa. (July 21, 2021) –– The Pennsylvania Health Care Association – a statewide advocacy organization for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents and their providers of care – has issued the following statement in response to the Department of Health’s announcement regarding newly-proposed nursing home regulations. The statement can be attributed to Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association.

The Department of Health’s newly-proposed staffing requirement illustrates just how out-of-touch this regulatory agency is regarding the providers, workers and residents they oversee. 

In our current operating environment, this proposed regulation is an unattainable, unfunded mandate that will cripple an essential component of the long-term care continuum in one of the oldest states, in terms of population, in the entire country.  

This announcement is not ‘historic’. Instead, it’s history repeating itself. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic –– as Pennsylvania’s long-term care providers were pleading for the resources necessary to protect their residents and staff –– the Department of Health found an opportune time to draft new regulations, without stakeholder input, for 700 nursing homes throughout the commonwealth.

And this, after the Department of Health disbanded a stakeholder workgroup, which was established to guide this regulatory process and offer suggestions. 

Once again, the experiences of long-term care providers were disregarded. Rather than include input from the front lines of the pandemic, Department of Health officials chose to draft regulations with unachievable mandates that will do nothing to improve the quality of care in Pennsylvania. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) does not believe in a “one size fits all” approach to staffing ratios, which is why there is no federal recommendation that requires minimum staffing ratios. 

Today’s announcement to raise staffing levels in nursing homes comes at a time when Pennsylvania is facing a statewide workforce shortage. To meet a 4.1 staffing standard statewide, nursing homes will need to hire an additional 7,000 direct care workers –– who, at this moment, do not exist.  

Additionally, this proposed mandate will cost operators $6 million per week in new wages –– more than $300 million per year –– with no proposed new funding attached. For an industry so dependent on a Medicaid reimbursement system that hasn’t kept pace with rising costs of care since 2014, this is simply unrealistic.

It is the mission of all long-term care providers to ensure the health and safety of their residents. It’s time for the Department of Health to begin partnering with providers –– the real experts in caring for tens of thousands of vulnerable seniors in Pennsylvania –– and ensuring the sustainability of care for our seniors in the years to come.

Today’s announcement, unfortunately, is a step in the wrong direction.

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