It seems like fantastic news at first glance. Governor Andrew Cuomo recently approved a massive payout to nursing homes across New York.
Just how much? $850 million to be split amongst the 600+ nursing care facilities in the state. Surely everyone can get behind such an initiative. Our elderly citizens deserve quality care, comfortable surroundings, and well-funded facilities.
Unfortunately, the money is going to some of the lowest-rated nursing homes in the country. New York State consistently finds itself at or near the bottom of the national nursing home rankings. Collectively, the state has received an “F” for the past three years in the annual report cards released by the non-profit advocacy group Families for Better Care. New York currently sits at 45th out of 50.
The payout – widely considered a universal settlement in exchange for thousands of charges being dropped against the state regarding Medicaid reimbursements – will go to all facilities regardless of their current rating.
That doesn’t sit right with a lot of people.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services created a national five-star quality rating to assist families when comparing nursing homes. Care facilities receive an overall rating out of five, in addition to individual ratings for health inspections (based on the previous three years of inspections), staffing (based on staffing hours for RNs, LPNs, LVNs, and CNAs), and quality measures (11 clinical and physical measures that evaluate the care that residents get in the nursing home).
Of the 626 New York nursing homes in the database, well over half have a rating of average, below average, or much below average (three stars or less).
Even worse, a full 37% – more than one-third – have only one (124) or two (110) stars. But these homes will get the same cash payout that four and five-star facilities receive, with no obligation to use the money to improve the quality of their care in any way. It’s theirs to do with as they please.
So what’s the alternative? Many experts and observers have suggested the money be withheld from any nursing home with a rating of less than three stars. They would be instructed to improve their overall rating to a minimum of “average” before they’d be eligible to collect any of that settlement.
Of course, only the state government could place such a stipulation on the payout, and they have no plans to do so at the moment.
Imagine if you or a loved one were the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. Imagine if you suffered injury because of it, and were forced to find alternative living arrangements.
Now imagine that facility receiving millions of dollars as reward for their “quality care”. You’d feel angry. You’d feel dumbfounded. And that’s exactly where many people find themselves after hearing about the payment.
Increased funding and payments for nursing homes is never a bad idea. As our population gets older, the demand for quality care facilities is only going to get bigger. But there needs to be accountability. There needs to be industry responsibility. Common sense needs to prevail.
A one-star home should not receive the same amount as a five-star facility. Period. Perhaps it is time for the powers-that-be to reevaluate how money is doled out. To consider a tiered structure tied to performance and rank. Only then can we keep corporations from trying to cash in on the elderly.
Nursing homes should be about providing the best possible care for the people that need it most. $850 million is a lot of money. Let’s make them earn it.