Medicare Cuts Threaten Nursing Home Quality

A great majority of nursing homes rely on funds from federal and state programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Some homes rely on these funds for a majority of their operating budget, while others rely more on private insurance and funds from seniors who have the funds to pay outright for their care. The Chicago Sun-Times reports on proposed cuts to Medicaid that may cause care in nursing homes to become worse.

The federal government rates nursing homes based on overall quality of care, assigning from one to five stars. Several factors go into the consideration of a home’s overall rating, such as how well they perform on government inspections, the number of nurses and nurse’s aides employed, and other factors such as how often residents fall or are admitted to the hospital.

Homes who have a higher number of residents relying on Medicaid for all or part of their care tend to have fewer stars. Homes who have received just one star have, on average, 69% of their residents covered by Medicaid. Homes with five stars average just 49% of patients on Medicaid.

It is already well known that Medicaid pays less to healthcare providers than other forms of insurance. This often results in homes with a higher number of patients covered by the program being able to hire fewer nurses and nurse’s aides.

Despite this disparity, proponents of cutting Medicaid funding in Congress are still attempting to reduce the amount of Medicaid funding sent to the states by the federal government. Experts believe that this would cause care of those covered by Medicaid, and others, to worsen. Facilities may have to make difficult hiring decisions as well as decide who they will admit and for how long. States will also have to make difficult decisions into providing Medicaid coverage for the low-income and the disabled.

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