The nursing home industry is changing. Companies that operate nursing homes are becoming increasingly interested in attracting short-term baby boomer patients instead of the traditional older, long-term residents.
Two Types of Nursing Home Care
Nursing homes can provide two distinct types of care. The first is long-term care for people who have chronic illnesses, such as dementia. The second type of care — the type becoming increasingly attractive to the nursing home industry — is for patients who need short-term therapy, typically a few weeks, after they have had an acute medical problem, such as a broken hip or a mild stroke.
The Economics of Short- Versus Long-Term Care
It all comes down to money. The reason the nursing home industry wants to attract more short-term patients is that the payment the nursing homes receive from the short-timers will be significantly higher.
The difference comes from the type of care offered and from who picks up the bills. In the case of long-term care for chronically ill patients, payment is usually from private insurers or from Medicaid. In Illinois, Medicaid payments for nursing home residents don’t even cover the nursing homes’ cost, according to a nursing home trade group. The average Medicaid payment per patient per day in an Illinois nursing home is $145, while the actual cost is $170.
Short-term patients who need therapy generate a lot more income for the nursing homes. Medicare, not Medicaid, pays for their therapy, and payments for therapy can be as high as $500 per patient per day.
Boomers are the group most in need of short-term rehabilitation, so nursing homes are going all out to try to attract them. Some new nursing homes are offering hotel-like amenities, such as flat-screen televisions, Wi-Fi, and cafeterias that look like chic cafes.
Nursing home operators are even changing the name they give to their facilities that specialize in short-term care. Instead of calling them “nursing homes,” which has negative connotations for baby boomers, they are calling them “transitional care centers.”
Opposition to the Transitional Care Centers
Companies that want to build new transitional care centers have had to deal with opposition from other nursing home operators. The reason, again, was money. The older nursing homes were afraid that the new short-term facilities would lure away their Medicare patients, leaving them with only the money-losing Medicaid population. The operators of the older homes said they needed the income from the Medicare patients in order to be able to subsidize their taking care of their Medicaid patients.
Initially, the companies that wanted to build transitional care centers also faced opposition from Illinois state regulators. That’s changing, though. In May 2016, regulators approved new facilities in Aurora and Lisle. They’re expected to be completed in 2019.
If the fears of the long-term nursing home operators prove to be true, and they lose the Medicare patients who economically sustain them, then the operators are likely to look for ways to cut costs. They may try reducing the number of staff members they employ. If that happens, then the quality of care could drop.
That would make an existing problem worse. Poor conditions caused by inadequate staffing already affect too many residents in nursing homes today.
If you have a loved one who you believe is not receiving proper care in a nursing home, you should file a complaint with the nursing home. Then, to find out more about your options, you can call the Rooth Law Firm at (800) 350-0646 for a free consultation to discuss the problem with an experienced nursing home neglect attorney.