Nursing home resident advocates and those in charge of the facilities are at odds over industry reforms President Joe Biden announced Tuesday during the State of the Union address.
While both groups agree changes need to be made, they part ways over what needs to be done and how that should be accomplished.
During the State of the Union, Biden announced plans to improve conditions at nursing homes by setting minimum staffing requirements, addressing overcrowding, cutting back on the overuse of antipsychotic medications and increasing inspections and enforcement.
But that could put too much blame on nursing home facilities, according to their leaders.
"It's time to stop blaming nursing homes for a once-in-a-century pandemic that uniquely targeted our residents," said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, which represents 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Parkinson and the AHCA said nursing homes have been improving quality over the past decade but are dealing with massive workforce shortages and chronic underfunding.
"Additional oversight without corresponding assistance will not improve resident care. To make real improvements, we need policymakers to prioritize investing in this chronically underfunded health care sector and support providers' improvement on the metrics that matter for residents," Parkinson said in a news release.
AHCA released a report Wednesday by professional services firm CliftonLarsonAllen that projected that nursing homes will face a 4.8% negative margin in 2022 and estimated that 417,000 residents live in nursing homes at risk of closure. During a news call on the report Wednesday, Nate Schema, president & CEO of Good Samaritan Society, a not-for-profit senior care provider, said the sector is "in an unsustainable and untenable situation."
But providers weren't all against Biden's plans. Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, which represents more than 5,000 not-for-profit aging services providers, commended the decision to prioritize long-term care but raised concerns about funding.
"If the past two years have shown us anything, it is that our country's aging services system is in desperate need of an overhaul," Smith Sloan said in a news release. "Mission-driven providers like LeadingAge members are committed to providing quality care and community services for older adults, but the threshold question is when will the government finally adequately fund these critical supports for millions of older Americans and their families?"
On the other side, proponents said the reforms bring about long-needed change in a sector plagued by problems.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy called Biden's plan "bold and comprehensive" and urged nursing home leaders to support it.
"Nursing home owners and executives who complain that they need more money should stop whining. Instead, they should be part of the solution. They should support President Biden's proposals and help improve nursing home care so that all residents are treated with dignity and respect and receive high quality care from fairly paid, trained and respected staff," the Center for Medicare Advocacy said in a news release.
Center for Medicare Advocacy senior policy attorney Toby Edelman said, "These would be, without question, the most important and positive changes in federal nursing home law and policy since the Nursing Home Reform Law was enacted in 1987."
Likewise, the AARP said cracking down on the industry was long overdue.
"The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the chronic, ongoing issues with our long-term care system and emphasized the need for reform," AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said in a news release. "It is a national disgrace that more than 200,000 residents and staff in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities died."
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care went as far as to say the reforms will "literally save lives."
"The Biden administration has taken a giant step toward treating nursing home residents with the respect, care and dignity they deserve. The administration's plan will address inadequate staffing that has plagued nursing homes for decades, support and invest in nursing home staff and hold facilities accountable for the quality of care they provide and the money they receive for that care," Lori Smetanka, executive director of The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care, said in a news release. "For residents, many of whom suffered as a result of inadequate staffing, reform cannot come quickly enough."