Statement from the Center for Medicare Advocacy
The deaths of more than 200,000 nursing home residents and staff have made clear to the country that fundamental changes are necessary in the operations and oversight of nursing homes. President Biden is leading the way with a comprehensive nursing home reform agenda. Unfortunately, executives and leaders in the nursing home industry are loudly complaining, making the same arguments they have been making for years. No one should be fooled by their discredited claims.
Nursing home executives argue that quality of care for residents has improved in recent years, citing “quality measures.” These so-called “quality measures” essentially let facilities grade themselves. Not surprisingly, facilities give themselves an A+ and say they’re doing a great job. Real, objective measures – staffing levels and independent, unannounced inspections by trained state inspectors – tell a very different story. Nursing facilities have too few staff and, too often, provide inadequate care.
Nursing home leaders actually admit that no nursing home currently has enough staff to provide care to residents. This admission understandably frightens families and makes them, when possible, avoid nursing homes when their loved ones need care. To deserve and gain public confidence, nursing homes should be doing all they can to recruit and keep qualified staff.
Nursing home leaders also claim that the Biden nursing home staffing standard will put them out of business. Really? First, there is no Biden nursing home staffing standard. As part of his nursing home reform agenda, President Biden is calling for a new study of staffing needs, recognizing that a study about staffing prepared for the Federal Government more than 20 years ago is outdated (although its conclusion, that more than 90% of facilities lack sufficient staff, likely understates the extent of the problem today). Only after this new study is completed will the Biden Administration propose an actual staffing standard to implement the study’s findings and recommendations. Second, and in the meantime, President Biden has committed to launching a National Nursing Home Career Pathways Campaign to help “recruit, train, retain, and transition workers into long-term care careers.” This Campaign will help ensure that there are sufficient numbers of people who are qualified and prepared to work in nursing homes. Industry executives also need to do their part, however, by paying workers a living wage, providing them with appropriate benefits, treating them well, and hiring enough workers to provide all the care that residents need.
Claims that facilities cannot afford to hire more staff, even if staff were available, ring hollow when private equity firms and other private buyers are sending prices for facilities to the highest levels ever.
Instead of scaring the public with threats of closings of nursing homes, which many older people and people with disabilities, and their families, need and must rely on, nursing home executives must be part of the solution towards improving nursing home care. Embracing President Biden’s nursing home reform agenda is one way for the industry to show that they are really serious about improving care for residents.