Long Term Care Sector Calls for Support for America’s Nursing Homes

COVID-19; Advocacy

Systemic issues facing America’s nursing homes have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the urgent need for reform. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, lawmakers must shift their focus on improving long term care options for our seniors. 

President Biden has released the American Jobs Plan, which proposes $400 billion in spending on home or community-based care. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) welcomes the Biden Administration taking steps to support senior care. However, the plan does not provide support for nursing homes. As nursing homes face ongoing Medicaid underfunding and workforce shortages, it is critical that lawmakers dedicate funding and resources for this important sector of long term care. 

AHCA and LeadingAge have proposed the Care For Our Seniors Act to address some of the long-standing issues in America’s nursing homes and improve the overall quality of care. There are four main principles: 

  • Clinical: Enhance the quality of care in nursing homes by developing robust standards for infection preventionists, requiring that each nursing home have a registered nurse on-staff, 24 hours per day, and requiring a minimum 30-day supply of personal protective equipment in all nursing homes. 
  • Workforce: Strengthen and support our frontline caregivers by implementing a multi-phase tiered approach to attract, retain and develop more long term care professionals leveraging federal, state and academic institutions. 
  • Oversight: Establish a more resident-driven system that is focused on improvement to ensure nursing homes are in compliance and providing high quality care. This would include implementing a process to help turn around or close facilities that are chronic poor performers and adding customer satisfaction to the government’s five-star rating system to help guide potential residents and family members. 
  • Structural: Modernize nursing homes by conducting a national study on how to shift to more private rooms, which promote resident privacy, autonomy and dignity, as well as support infection control best practices. ​​
These necessary reforms require a significant investment in our seniors and their long term care. Investment strategies include both immediate and long-term plans to help address chronic Medicaid underfunding of nursing homes, as 60 percent of residents rely on the program for their daily care. Moreover, nursing homes are now facing an economic crisis due to the pandemic, as providers have dedicated tens of billions of dollars to acquire the necessary testing, personal protective equipment and staff support to battle the virus. Without government support, thousands of nursing homes could close this year, and most nursing homes will be unable to afford meaningful change. 

In order to strengthen the entire long term care sector, we must apply the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic. AHCA/NCAL is eager to work collaboratively with the Biden Administration and Congress to implement significant reforms that will protect our nation’s seniors, create meaningful jobs for caregivers, and prepare for a growing elderly population. 

To learn more, please visit www.ahcancal.org/solutions

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org​.