Long term care requires long term solutions

Moms, dads, and grandparents are people in our long-term care facilities. For the past 19 months, they and the millions of frontline heroes who watched them day and night have been at the center of this once-in-a-century public health crisis.

Thanks to safe and effective vaccines, we have made significant progress in the fight against COVID-19. While there is still a long way to go, we have learned an important lesson: when long-term treatment is supported by the federal and state governments, positive results are achieved.

We are grateful to the Ministry of Health and Human Services for providing a new round of funding from the Nursing Homes and Nursing Communities Health Care Provider Fund. Our service providers continue to spend billions of dollars on ongoing staff support, personal protective equipment and testing to keep residents and staff safe in the ongoing pandemic. This much-needed funding will help offset these costs and ensure that suppliers can keep their doors open.

While this funding is necessary, it is only a short-term remedy. The pandemic has sparked two crises in the long-term care industry that threaten access to care for current and future patients. Long-term care facilities are now facing a serious staffing crisis and many are in dire financial straits. Eliminating these crises requires proactive, forward-looking decisions from the public sector. Legislators must invest in long-term care for our country’s most vulnerable people and those who care for them.

Even before the pandemic, recruiting and retaining staff was an ongoing challenge in long-term care. But now it’s the worst thing that ever happened. A new poll doctors shows that nearly all nursing homes and nursing homes in the United States are understaffed. Nursing homes and other residential institutions have lost 380,000 employees since February 2020, and while other sectors are recovering, long-term care has cut jobs every month with the exception of one since the start of the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Caregivers in long-term care facilities were burned out. As with many other private industries, they cannot find workers to fill vacant positions. But unlike private businesses, which may adjust their performance or take a little longer to serve food, long-term care facilities cannot ignore constant care 24 hours a day. If they do not have the guardians they need, they must limit the number of residents they can serve. Nearly 60% of nursing homes stop accepting new patients, and some even close their doors due to staff problems.

The pandemic also triggered an economic crisis in long-term care, especially given that these institutions had limited resources prior to the crisis. Chronic Medicaid underfunding is a major financial problem that plagues too many nursing homes. Most residents rely on Medicaid for their care, but the program does not reimburse providers for the actual cost of providing care. This persistent mismatch, combined with high ongoing costs of the COVID-19 response and fewer new hospitalizations, has led to a massive economic crisis.

More than half of nursing homes and almost half of retirement communities operate at a loss, and only one quarter sure they will last a year or more. Without government support, some 1,800 nursing homes could close their doors forever. It is harmful for seniors and people with disabilities who require 24/7 care, but who may live in communities where there are few other care options.

The Budget Harmonization Bill is an opportunity for members of Congress to make decisions that will help patients and long-term care staff. With the full support of our leaders on Capitol Hill, we can improve their quality of life. We can make the necessary investments so that our seniors today and those we care for in the future have access to the high-quality health care they deserve. V Elderly Care Act offers several immediate and long-term solutions to help us achieve this. The Biden administration has pledged to increase funding for home and community health workers, but our nursing home workers deserve additional support as well.

We were taken care of by our elderly loved ones, and now it is our turn to take care of them. It’s time to stop bandaging our long term care system and implement permanent solutions. As we emerge from the pandemic, let’s not go back to business as usual. The alignment package is a great opportunity for policymakers to demonstrate their commitment to our older people and their carers by allocating the necessary resources, coupled with meaningful reforms that will strengthen our health sector. We can create a safer and brighter future for older people in our country, as well as provide better paying jobs for carers. Let’s work together to get our job done.

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