Heritage Joins LeadingAge NY in Sharing Nursing Home Concerns with State Leaders

Lisa Haglund, Heritage Ministries President and CEO, shared this week that Heritage, a member of LeadingAge New York, and not-for-profit senior living provider headquartered in Chautauqua County, NY, is joining LeadingAge New York (LANY), by supporting individuals who testified before the Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) this week. LeadingAge New York offered its recommendations to enhance care and services for seniors while sharing the negative impacts currently proposed legislation will have on care for seniors in New York State.

Haglund stated, “As we continue the grueling fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, regulatory guidelines for providers in the senior care industry continue to be levied by the state of New York without the proper funding to support these measures. Slowing the spread and preventing infection, in addition to increased personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpile requirements, and increased staffing challenges related to COVID-19 vaccine mandates have been extremely financially taxing on our already underfunded senior housing and healthcare system. This is especially true for long-term care communities, such as Heritage, where many of our residents rely on Medical Assistance funding to meet their medical needs.”

LeadingAge New York’s testimony this week on behalf of its members focused on the two currently proposed regulations by the New York State Department of Health to require nursing homes to commit a specified percentage of operating revenue to resident care, and a second measure imposing minimum nurse and nurse aide hours requirements within nursing homes.

Haglund explained that Heritage lost approximately 10% of its workforce in its New York communities – a total of almost 100 employees, as a direct result of the COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Making the situation worse for nursing homes, Haglund said, is that the state has cut its Medicaid reimbursement payments. The bulk of care received by nursing home residents in New York is paid for by Medicaid.

“New York State continues to cut funding for our seniors during a time when we are already challenged,” Haglund said, alluding to the series of events impacting operations in the New York senior care industry, including the pandemic, lack of funding for necessary operations, and a statewide staffing shortage prior to the new proposed regulations that will lead to further staffing problems. She compared the cuts to reimbursement payments, and the proposed staffing regulations that require the organization to hire more employees at higher wages as the state “requiring us to fly a plane while building it, and they haven’t even given us the right tools.”

Haglund shared that in a statement to the PHHPC, LeadingAge New York pointed out that the minimum nursing hours regulation is entirely inconsistent with the state of emergency due to health care staffing shortages declared by Governor Hochul just last week. Under current conditions, flexibility and resources are needed.

She continued by noting that the pandemic has shown that an increase to Medicaid rates is necessary more now than ever for nursing homes and senior care providers in New York. “More than 2 in 3 residents in nursing homes have their stays paid by Medical Assistance. Prior to COVID-19, Medical Assistance underfunded non-profit nursing facilities by an average of more than $80 per resident per day. The pandemic has worsened this situation. An average 100-bed nursing home accrues over $30,000 per week in uncompensated costs for staff personal protective equipment and ongoing testing of staff and residents. We need funds to continue to operate and provide our greatest generation, our seniors, with the care that they both need and deserve.”

“The proposed regulations are simply hollow if they do not include adjustments to Medicaid reimbursement rates that have been stagnant for more than 13 years,” said James W. Clyne, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of LeadingAge New York.

Prior to the meeting, LeadingAge New York shared its concerns with the proposed staffing regulations in a five-page letter to the PHHPC, highlighting both technical and broad issues with the regulations as currently written. It also includes details associated with alarming trends in the long-term care sector, such as the closure of approximately 20 nursing homes and the additional sale of 50 not-for-profit facilities to for profit entities.

LeadingAge New York also clearly identified the failed actions of prior administrations and long-term legislators, such as nursing home cuts totaling $168 million during the height of a public health pandemic.

Haglund added, “At Heritage, the steps we take daily to meet (and often exceed) regulatory mandates to slow the spread and prevent infection from COVID-19 continue to be extremely financially taxing on an already underfunded Medical Assistance-funded long-term care system. Without swift action from our representatives to ensure increased reimbursement, and regulations that will not burden senior care providers, more quality providers in New York State will shutter their doors, or be forced to sell at a time when seniors are aging with more complex medical needs. The consequences will be devastating to those needing care, as well as the workforce associated with these providers.”

“While there is still time, we implore New York State, Governor Hochul, and our representatives to consider the long term consequences of the proposed regulations and underfunding, before the ramifications have a long term lasting effect on our entire health care system including the senior care industry as a whole, the residents we serve, and the hospitals we support,” she concluded.

 

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