Since the onset of COVID-19, the skilled nursing facility industry has been subject to increased scrutiny. Many people worried about the rapid spread of the disease, and the Center for Disease Control announced that individuals living in such facilities were at an increased risk. On February 28, President Biden sought to address these concerns by announcing a series of major reforms targeting assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. These new nursing home regulations are part of an ongoing effort to improve living conditions for facility residents and thwart the deadly spread of COVID. Any professional who works in skilled nursing should be familiar with the following implications of Biden’s SNF reform plan.
Private Equity Ownership
One of the first issues addressed in Biden’s plan is private equity ownership of skilled nursing facilities. Biden said that nursing home quality has declined as a result of “Wall Street firms [taking] over more nursing homes,” and pledged to end the problem by setting higher standards through Medicare. Some critics of Biden’s announcement pointed out that only a fraction of skilled nursing facilities are owned by private equity firms, and it’s unclear how Medicare would be used for nursing home risk management in privately owned properties.
Minimum Staffing Requirements
Biden’s announcement also highlights the chronic staffing shortage that many skilled nursing facilities have faced in a post-COVID world. The announcement promised to implement minimum staffing standards within a year, and it said that the requirements will be based on new research done by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Though an increase in staff members would surely improve residents’ quality of living, the National Center for Assisted Living countered by highlighting industry-wide efforts to hire more caregivers and concluding that there is simply a shortage of such professionals available to work.
Maximum Room Occupancy
Yet another issue addressed in Biden’s announcement is the intent to phase out multiple resident rooms. The notice says that nursing home residents often share rooms, and CMS aims to eliminate these types of accommodations while encouraging facilities to utilize single occupant rooms. Indeed, nursing home risk management is vital. Rooms with multiple residents increase the potential spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, but many residents prefer the companionship provided by a shared room and many cannot afford the increased expense of their own individual room.
More Safety Inspections
Finally, Biden announced his intent to devote more funding to safety inspections that would serve to implement these new standards. He specifically indicated a targeted 25% increase in funding that would allot $500 million to CMS for SNF health inspections. These inspections would also include compliance surveys that may allow low-performing facilities to eventually “graduate” when they meet the minimum requirements of the inspection.