As states begin to provide more home and assisted living services to seniors the number of nursing home beds begins to decline. A study done by Harvard Medical School found that a 10% increase in assisted living capacity led to a 1.4% decline in private pay nursing home occupancy. Most nursing home residents pay privately for nursing home care thus don’t affect the occupancy in Medicaid beds. In order to decrease the number of nursing home Medicaid beds, states must make an effort to increase funding for Medicaid clients living in nursing homes that want to receive services at home or in a Medicaid funded community care (assisted living) facility. To this day, the private assisted living industry takes Medicaid eligible residents only if they have an occupancy problem. They prefer not to deal with the complexities of billing the government and the excess of monitoring and reporting that goes with having a Medicaid resident. However, state Medicaid agencies are hard pressed to reduce the number of individuals in nursing homes paid by Medicaid if they are going to see reductions in their Medicaid long-term care budgets.
Although this move benefits clients who wish to remain at home, it drastically impacts the financial viability of nursing homes across the U.S. With less private paying clients nursing homes will start cutting back essential services to an ever growing number of very frail clients. What is more, some states like Pennsylvania are billing family members for the cost of nursing homes. The Pennsylvania law stipulates that family members of nursing home clients are ultimately responsible for the cost. Some families have been billed some $96,000 for the care provided to a family member residing in a nursing home.
At the end someone has to pay, either a family member or us, the taxpayers. What the story tells us is that long-term care in the U.S. is broken and needs to be reformed soon. One answer will be for states to continue to rebalance their long-term care program, provide more community care and make it easier for providers to want to work with the government.