October 5, 2021, Alex Zorn, Skilled Nursing News - How long the next wave of Provider Relief Funds will last nursing home operators remains to be seen but American Health Care Association president and CEO Mark Parkinson expects it to be nothing more than a short-term fix for the industry. “It is at best a three month to six month solution if that,” he told Skilled Nursing News in an interview Monday.
The Biden administration announced in September that $25.5 billion will be made available for health care providers, including $17 billion from phase four of the Provider Relief Fund and an additional $8.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan to assist providers who serve rural Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare.
“Nursing homes are about 5% of the health care spend so if we received a proportional allocation, we would receive about $1.25 billion. We’re hoping that it’s more than that. We need a lot more than that to get the sector back to health, but that exact amount is not clear right now,” he said.
Parkinson wants to see more federal support for the sector. He also thinks there needs to be recognition of the “chronic, long-term underfunding of Medicaid” and that it “needs to stop.”
“In the short run it’s going to take a combination of census improvements and provider relief funds, in the long run we need a whole policy shift,” Parkinson said.
There are several federal initiatives Parkinson is currently eyeing that will help out operators, one of which being the Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act of 2021.
Introduced in August, the proposed federal legislation seeks to bolster Medicaid funding for nursing homes in order to improve staffing and looks to establish better transparency, accountability and oversight at these facilities.
“We think the legislation that Senator Ron Wyden has introduced really advances forward what needs to be done to improve quality in long-term care,” Parkinson said. “The most significant thing that he does is he recognizes that there’s a need for more RN hours and more infection control prevention, but he also recognizes there’s a need to fund it.”
Parkinson said he remains in support of the federal bill, though wants more funding for nursing homes than is currently allocated.
“The challenge is that there’s not enough funding in the bill right now,” he added. “So we’re in discussions with [Wyden] and others about how to increase the funding.”
That piece of legislation isn’t the only initiative seeking to infuse some much needed capital into senior care.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration announced plans for a $400 billion investment to expand home- and community-based services (HCBS) in health care.
Parkinson said that number has been cut since it was first announced.
“The latest discussions have been somewhere between $100 billion and $190 billion and that of course assumes the reconciliation bill passes,” he said.
Parkinson would like to see some of the federal dollars initially floated by President Biden earmarked for nursing home care.
“All of that money should not just be spent on home services, it should be spent across the spectrum, including on SNFs,” Parkinson said.
He’s also looking to other potential sources through reconciliation to better fund nursing homes.
“One of the things that we’re excited about is the possibility of increasing infection control preventionist hours in every building, and that’s under consideration in reconciliation,” he said. “It would be paid for through Medicaid inquiries.”