What is the Long-Term Future of Long-Term Care Facilities and Nursing Homes after COVID-19?

The pandemic took a toll on nursing homes and long-term care facilities.  The industry is being subjected to heighten scrutiny after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed, among other things, some of the problems with long-term care resources. 

News reports from across the country leave little doubt as to the disproportionate effect COVID-19 had on residents and family members of long-term care facilities.  The inconvenient truth is that a full recovery for the long-term care industry will require more than new admissions, but also a comprehensive review of the state of senior assisted living and long-term care.  

The U.S. has the largest number of nursing-home residents in the world. Recent publications note that families and some doctors have become reluctant to send patients to long-term care facilities, fearing infection and isolation in places ravaged by Covid-19[1].  Recent statistics suggest that occupancy in nursing homes is down at least 15% from 2019, which is likely caused by a combination of deaths and falling new admissions.  Consistent with that trajectory, Medicare patients are also declining long-term care at a substantial rate.  This is particularly troublesome since historically Medicare payments have been vital to the long-term care business model.

As part of a recent trend, some health care companies have teamed up to change the way healthcare will be delivered in the future to long-term care patients. The expansion of telehealth during the pandemic and available technologies, including medical record sharing platforms, have proven that in-home health care can be more accessible for everyone. Some advocacy groups are lobbying the CMS to maintain the Hospital Without Walls program that was established at the beginning of the pandemic, and expanded in November 2020, to assist with patients receiving care at home.  

Despite the potential seismic shift of at-home care, industry practitioners believe that the long-term care is here to stay and that, in fact, recovery has started. Industry leaders believe that while staffing and quality of care issue are being addressed, to completely recover, long-term care facilities will require financial assistance from the federal government. However, as we have experienced with similar “bail outs” in the past, federal aid comes at a cost, typically in the form of federal oversight and audits.  If history repeats itself, there could be changes to regulatory oversight of long-term care to address the changing landscape of the industry. 

No other healthcare industry will come under greater scrutiny in the coming months and year than the long-term care industry.  Although following best practices is not always easy – or possible – many times practices and facilities are held to unreasonable standards.

How Frier Levitt Can Help

If your nursing home or long-term care facility is approached by government agents or payors as part of an investigation or audit, do not panic.  Contact Frier Levitt so we may assist you through these complicated and unprecedented times.

[1] Current available data suggest over 174,000 deaths in Long term care facilities have been linked to COVID–19.  The Long Term Care COVID Tracker, The COVID Tracking Project, last updated March 4, 2021, https://covidtracking.com/nursing-homes-long-term-care-facilities

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