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LTC Bullet:

Nursing Homes Suffer When Medicaid Pays

Tuesday December 7, 1999


Friday's (12/3/99) Boston Globe reported that Maine nursing homes are struggling to hire and retain quality staff because of insufficient Medicaid reimbursement. In fact, this is a national problem which will only get worse until nursing homes redouble their efforts to embrace and promote private financing alternatives such as long-term care insurance that pay nursing homes enough money to attract and retain high quality staff.

According to the article titled, "Nursing Homes Face Growing Staffing and Funding Crisis," Maine health care officials and nursing home workers are complaining that "patients are getting sicker in Maine's nursing homes and fewer staffers are around to help them." To what effect? Lou Dorogi, who oversees nursing home licensing for Maine's Department of Human Services (DHS), suggests in the article that patient injuries are rising because of insufficient staff.

In fact, low pay has created a veritable revolving door of employment in Maine nursing homes. "Hilton Power of Brunswick [Maine], a volunteer under the DHS ombudsman program who inspects nursing homes, said the industry has 'burned up workers like cordwood in a bad winter...using a forest of unskilled workers willing to work for peanuts in the most dangerous industry.''' Power said the industry's annual turnover rate of 80 percent would put firms in any other industry out of business.

Further, "Paula Valente, chief executive officer of the Maine Health Care Association, said 40 percent of the state's 120 homes are technically insolvent because Medicaid, which covers up to 75 percent of nursing home patients, reimburses at 1993 levels. 'This is not greedy nursing home owners putting the money in their pocket,' she said. Nursing homes 'are making every effort to face the staffing problem. But its a Catch-22 problem if you don't get reimbursed.'"

Source: "Nursing Homes Face Growing Staffing and Funding Crisis," Boston Globe, December 3, 1999 at