State wants nursing homes to provide over an hour more direct care to patients

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The state made what it calls a historic announcement about skilled nursing facilities across Pennsylvania. They announced new regulations designed to protect patients, but there’s more to the announcement than meets the eye and not everyone is happy about it.

The state wants homes to provide over an hour more direct care to patients than they’re required to right now, but that raised a lot of questions, first and foremost, where will nursing homes find enough workers to do this?

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New proposed regulations from the state focus on requiring each nursing home resident to get a little over four hours of direct care every day, up from 2.7 hours now. But the Pennsylvania Health Care Association says that would take another 7,000 direct care workers, who the association says just don’t exist.

“What we’re doing by way of some of the federal resources that we received is actually investing in that staffing infrastructure in Pennsylvania and so hopefully we’ll have the recruitment tools, the compensation tools and the like, the education tools and the like, to have the workforce ready to be hired,” Alison Beam, Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, said.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association says this would mean more than $6 million a week in new wages, adding that this is an industry so dependent on a Medicaid reimbursement system, which hasn’t seen new money in years.

There’s a gap between how much money the state provides to nursing homes for Medicaid patients and the actual cost of care, about a $50 gap for every nursing home resident, who relies on Medicaid. The state says there would be more money toward Medicaid reimbursements if this all were to go through.

“We anticipate the federal share to be $193.2 million and the state cost to be $173.6 million,” Meg Snead, Acting Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, said.

“To invest in our workforce and to invest in personal protective equipment, infection control in our facilities, in the care that we provide, it’s going to take a lot more than what was proposed today to do that, and to sustain our operations,” Zach Shamberg, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, said.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association is also upset because it says it was not privy to these new regulations ahead of time, despite being part of a working group to help with the development of new regulations.

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