A massive revamp of US nursing facilities, which President Joe Biden is scheduled to propose in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, will include minimum staffing levels.
Nursing home staffing levels are considered a key quality indicator, but the pandemic has left many facilities short on nurses, nursing assistants, and other caregivers.
As reported by US News, Biden’s plan will involve 20 separate initiatives to improve nursing home quality in addition to staffing standards. However, there will be no additional government funding sources to cover the costs of the reforms.
“Overall, these are extremely positive developments,” long-term care expert and Harvard health policy professor David Grabowski told the Associated Press. “Ask the industry, and they’ll tell you that this will drive them out of business. If you ask an advocate, they’ll tell you that the system has plenty of money. I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”
Biden will announce a $500 million (almost 25%) increase in the nursing facility inspection budget as part of the strategy.
“Despite the tens of billions of dollars in federal taxpayer funding that flow to nursing homes every year, too many continue to deliver inadequate, subpar care that results in preventable resident damage,” the White House stated in unveiling the plan.
But rather than assigning fingers, the leader of a significant industry association acknowledged in a statement that nursing homes require additional resources.
“More oversight without more help would not improve resident care,” Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, stated. “Policymakers must prioritize investing in this chronically underfunded health-care sector and encourage providers’ improvement on the measures that matter to people if we are to see genuine progress.”
“Long-term care already had a manpower deficit before COVID, and the pandemic worsened the problem,” she said, “Parkinson went on to say. “To meet the growing requirements of our residents, we would like to hire more nurses and nurse aides. However, we won’t be able to meet additional staffing needs if we can’t locate people to fill open positions or if we lack the resources to compete with other employers.”
A representative of nonprofit facilities also aired concerns.
“Medicaid, the most common payer for long-term care services, does not fully cover the costs of nursing homes,” says one expert “According to the Associated Press, Katie Smith Sloan, president of LeadingAge, “Regulations and enforcement, no matter how well-intentioned, can’t change the math,” she explained.