LETTER from STEPHEN HANSE
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is consistent – politicians are placing blame for the effects of the virus at the feet of other politicians, policymakers and providers, but nobody is focusing blame for the consequences of the virus where it truly belongs, with:
• The virus itself
• The state’s “hospital-centric” approach to combatting the virus and
• Historic underfunding of long-term care.
At the onset of the pandemic, the State of New York failed to immediately focus fully on the needs of nursing homes, and instead implemented a “hospital-centric” approach that led to limited access to testing, extensive staffing and PPE shortages in nursing homes.
The COVID-19 virus first appeared in the United States at a nursing home in Washington State, with devastating consequences. New York disregarded this fact and implemented a “hospital-centric” approach to combatting the virus, instead of looking at the people who were most susceptible to the COVID-19 virus – namely nursing-home residents.
New York’s “hospital-centric” approach focused the state’s limited resources on hospital-based solutions such as the Javits Center and the USS Comfort, that ultimately proved to be ill-advised, while nursing homes throughout New York State were left scrambling to safeguard their residents and staff.
Almost 80 percent of New York State’s nursing home resident care is paid for by Medicaid. The state has cut Medicaid reimbursement to nursing homes for over 12 years in a row – creating a reimbursement void that was only exacerbated by the state’s primary focus on hospitals through-out the pandemic!
The statewide average cost of providing around-the-clock nursing home care is $266. However, the statewide average Medicaid reimbursement for 24-hour care is $211, resulting in nursing homes being reimbursed $8.79 per hour to care for our most vulnerable! Most folks pay their babysitter more than $8.79 per hour!
Policymakers and legislators must stop the blame game, work in partnership with nursing home providers and view long-term care as an investment not an expense. Nursing homes are highly regulated providers that are essential in ensuring critical care to the State’s most vulnerable residents.