Voters Share Favorable Views of Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, Support Increased Funding
HARRISBURG — With the General Assembly gearing up for a new round of discussions in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2017-18 fiscal year budget, a new independent poll by Opinion Access Corp. showed that skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers and hospitals earned the highest favorability ratings among surveyed health-care organizations. The poll also found that eight in 10 Pennsylvania voters believe lawmakers should increase funding for care delivered in nursing homes.
PHCA President and CEO Russ McDaid outlined the state of affairs in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes while taping a segment for a statewide public affairs TV program that begins airing this weekend.
“Voters also made it abundantly clear that assisting our seniors is a core function of government,” McDaid said. “Nearly 90 percent of Pennsylvanians said that cutting state Medicaid funds for nursing homes is unacceptable and 80 percent of residents believe lawmakers should increase funding for care delivered in the commonwealth.”
The new data, in which 70 percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, comes nearly a month after Gov. Tom Wolf outlined his proposal for a 2017-18 fiscal year budget. The governor’s budget proposes flat funding for skilled nursing facilities.
During the program, McDaid explained that skilled nursing facilities would need an increase of 2.7 percent, or $46 million in state funds, just cover to cover basic inflation over the past year. Those state funds would in turn bring in an additional $49 million in federal funds. As proposed, the Governor’s current budget does nothing to close the annual $9,300 per patient reimbursement gap that exists for roughly two-thirds of all skilled nursing facility residents who rely on Medicaid to pay for their care.
“For more than a decade, PHCA has warned that skilled nursing facilities face a crisis as a result of chronic underfunding,” McDaid said. “The Pennsylvania Medicaid program does not come close to covering the real cost of care, and continued flat funding leaves Pennsylvania’s frailest and sickest residents, such as those with advanced dementia or severe chronic health conditions that require around-the-clock care in Pennsylvania’s skilled nursing facilities, vulnerable.
“Our elected officials are tasked with crafting a fair and responsible budget amid difficult circumstances. The fiscal challenges facing the governor and the legislature are abundant, and many difficult choices need to be made,” said McDaid. “However, the continued funding shortfall of skilled nursing facilities in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program is one of the biggest challenges facing consumers in need of skilled nursing facility and post-acute care, as we work to ensure high-quality, person-centered care for a rapidly aging population.”
Pennsylvania’s evolving health-care landscape is changing the way nursing facilities are used in the state. While many residents are being discharged from the hospital sooner, they are sicker than ever before. Most suffer from debilitating afflictions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or have acute clinical needs that require 24/7 attention by trained medical professionals. Some residents are in skilled nursing facilities on a short-term stay because they need post-acute around-the-clock care.
McDaid pointed out that skilled nursing facilities today are taking care of Pennsylvania’s sickest long-term care residents, serving as a safety net for the state’s frail elderly population.
“We understand that home is where people want to be cared for and live out their lives,” McDaid noted. “But for many of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, who need around-the-clock care, going home is not a viable option.”
The level of care provided by Pennsylvania’s skilled nursing facilities is in high demand and is costly to provide. If the state were to provide around-the-clock care under the Medicaid waiver program, that level of care at home would cost Medicaid almost double what it costs for skilled nursing care — $112,128 to $167,491 a year per person at home compared to an average of $73,142 for skilled nursing facility care in the 2015-16 fiscal year. The state simply can’t afford to provide around-the-clock care at home.
Pennsylvania’s skilled nursing facilities lose about $25.43 each day, or $9,300 annually, for each Medicaid resident in their care. It’s unsustainable, and puts additional financial stress on our skilled nursing facilities at a time when it is essential that they have the necessary funding to invest in quality care for their residents.
In addition to eight in 10 Pennsylvania voters believing that lawmakers should increase funding for care delivered in Pennsylvania nursing homes, nearly 90 percent of those polled said that cutting state Medicaid funds for nursing home care is unacceptable.
Despite voters stressing the importance of funding skilled nursing facilities care that care for their loved ones, the industry has been flat-funded five times over the last seven years.
The governor’s proposed budget also cut the Medicaid Access Program that legislators created four years ago to help facilities with high Medicaid populations. If fully funded, the $16 million program would generate an additional $17 million in federal funds.
“Almost everyone knows someone who is in a long-term care facility, and nearly half of all Americans will need long-term care at some point in their lives,” McDaid said. “The need for our facilities is not diminishing. The question that every Pennsylvanian should be asking now is will these facilities continue to be there when we need them most?”
“Pennsylvania Newsmakers” is one of the state’s premier politics and public policy television talk shows. The show is available at www.phca.org and will air regionally:
- WGAL Channel 8 (Harrisburg and Lancaster) Sunday, March 19, at 11:30 a.m.
- WBPH (Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia) Monday, March 20, at 8:30 p.m.
- WKBS 47 (Altoona) Saturday, March 25, at 9:30 a.m.
- WPCB 40 (Pittsburgh) Saturday, March 25, at 9:30 a.m.