Florida nursing homes say state lawmakers need to break them off a larger piece of the taxpayer pie, saying legislators should restore the automatic 1 percent increase in Medicaid payments they had received up until 2011. That was the year state lawmakers halted the increase, citing budget concerns.
But now, nursing homes say that annual increase should be restored. It would mean about $13 million more from the state every year – divided up among Florida’s 683 nursing homes – plus an additional $20.2 million from the federal government. Although most of the facilities concede they haven’t suffered substantially as a result of the cuts, they certainly could use the money to combat under-staffing and other issues that pose potential risks to nursing home residents.
Lawmakers are reticent to commit to any such change. Elder safety advocates who raise awareness about nursing home abuse and neglect say any such increase should be merit-based, denied to nursing homes that consistently fall short of providing quality care for patients.
Nursing home neglect and abuse continues to be a serious problem in Florida. The latest figures from March 2016 from Medicaid.gov’s Nursing Home Compare show that Florida’s average overall quality is 3.3 out of five stars. That is not great.
Among counties that have six or more nursing homes, Lee County ranked slightly better, with an overall rating of 3.6 out of 5. Collier County received a 3.2. Broward and Brevard both received a 3.4-star rating and Miami-Dade and Orange County both got 3.2 out of 5.
Representatives of nursing homes throughout the state say more could be done to improve these ratings with more Medicaid money. They say despite what people read in the revenue reports, most non-profit nursing homes have small margins. For example, one non-profit in Fort Myers operates with a 2.3-percent profit, with constant updates eating up that extra money. For example, management at that location just had to spend $155,000 for a new sprinkler system and another $110,000 for a new air conditioning system.
Lawmakers, however, have said they aren’t sure if it’s possible. About one-third of the state budget goes to Medicaid, and there are a number of other budgetary concerns, politicians say. In particular, the legislature is looking to funnel more Medicaid dollars toward the Low Income Pool, which gives money to hospitals and other health care facilities that treat the poor.
On top of that, noted the state House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Matt Hudson, R-Naples, the state expects to receive nearly $400 million less than what was originally planned for in the next fiscal year budget. That makes that 1 percent increase unrealistic, he said.
Brian Lee, leader of the Families for Better Care, pointed out the median yearly cost for a nursing home bed in the Sunshine State last year was nearly $88,000. That is more than $7,000 higher than the national average. On top of that, the overall aging of the population has resulted in an increased value for nursing home properties. Investors reportedly paid $20,000 per bed back in 2004. Fast-forward to 2014, when property investors were willing to pay $78,000 per bed.
That’s why Lee is advocating for a strings-attached system if the government is going to be doling out more money. He said while the money might be truly beneficial for smaller facilities, “Those larger companies are more likely to cut staff and services just to make a buck.”
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Florida’s nursing homes want more Medicaid money, lawmakers are unsure if the state can afford it, Jan. 22, 2016, By Arek Sarkissian, The Naples Daily News
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Lawmakers: Stop Nursing Home Abuse on Social Media, March 23, 2016, Naples Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer Blog