Joseph DeMattos//May 22, 2023
//May 22, 2023
Last week was National Skilled Nursing Care Week. Today, 22,000 Marylanders are receiving care in nursing homes and 30,000 local professionals are providing that care.
When you think of nursing homes, however, you probably do not realize that many patients are only there for short periods of time. Nursing homes help patients recover from heart attacks, strokes, falls, car accidents, and other illnesses and injuries. Oftentimes, these centers provide the care and therapy that allows people to return to activity, work, active retirement, and milestone events like weddings, graduations, and birthdays.
Nursing homes are too frequently and wrongly viewed as places people go to die rather than recover. Meanwhile, the workforce is strained and costs for wages, goods, and services are at an all-time high due to record inflation. As a result, Marylanders who need to go to skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers may not be able to.
The predominant payor in skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers is Medicare for short-stay rehabilitation and Medicaid for long-term care. Because providers are reliant on Medicare and Medicaid rates set by the government for most of their revenue, they cannot simply adjust prices to accommodate rising expenses, inflation, and wage increases.
We are grateful that the fiscal year 2024 state budget includes a Medicaid rate increase beginning this July and another increase beginning January 2024. Gov. Wes Moore, Senate President Bill Ferguson, House Speaker Adrienne Jones, and other legislative leaders deserve our appreciation for working together to fund this increase. Thankfully, it will help maintain care capacity and cover increased operational expenses.
The No. 1 expense in a nursing home is wages and benefits. Wages have historically increased throughout the pandemic, yet long-term care and all of the health care industry continues to face dramatic workforce shortages. Additionally, many issues impact shortages beyond wages and benefits.
Basic support services such as transportation, child care, and housing can be game-changing for health care workers. Together, we must focus on public-private partnerships with government, businesses, and community leaders to find solutions to these larger societal issues.
It is also imperative to focus on providing affordable and accessible wellness services for younger people to help keep them out of long-term care facilities later in life. A strong continuum of preventive care services can be a critical factor to prevent illnesses or serious medical issues before they occur.
Unfortunately, many people in nursing homes have spent a lifetime fighting health care inequity. As they age, they find themselves dealing with multiple chronic conditions – some of which may have been preventable or manageable with earlier access to care. We must prioritize fighting for health care equity and improving access to integrated primary care for Marylanders of all ages.
The bottom line is that nursing homes are a necessity. As we work with Maryland state leaders to evolve the unique Total Cost of Care Contract with the federal government, we are eager to advance a proactive, solutions-driven plan – one focused on the core principles of quality care, workforce development, and innovation.
Together, we can make Maryland nursing home care the model for the rest of the nation.
Joseph DeMattos Jr. is president and CEO of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland.