Governor Jared Polis’ Office of State Planning and Budgeting, with assistance from the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), recently submitted a budget request package to the Budget Committee joint (JBC) to financially stabilize nursing facilities and aid workforce retention efforts.
According to Colin Laughlin, deputy director of the office of the Office of Community Life at the HCPF, many nursing care facilities, especially those accepting Medicaid patients, continue to have solvency issues. Much of this concern stems from their increased reliance on traveling nurses and their increasingly high salaries.
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The package includes two supplementary budget requests. The first request is for $20 million, which would provide “temporary payments to nursing facilities in fiscal year 2021-22 to support workforce and industry sustainability” according to an HCPF Press release. The $20 million includes $10 million from the state General Fund and $10 million from federal matching funds.
The second request is for $7 million, which would provide more funds for Medicaid-funded facilities to increase the salaries of workers similar to the salaries of those providing home and community care services (HCBS).
“Nursing homes are grappling with the impact of the COVID-19-induced economic downturn while struggling to find and retain workers due to the current shortage of healthcare personnel,” said Kim Bimestefer, Executive Director of the HCPF. “This funding would provide financial support to care homes to help them better care for our seniors and people with disabilities in these settings.”
These additional requests were forwarded by JBC. The first will be integrated into the current budget for the 2021-2022 financial year and the second will be integrated into the next State budget for the 2022-2023 financial year.
Laughlin said nursing facilities are losing their permanent workforce, forcing agency workers to supplement those lost workers. This growing demand for agency workers is causing their wages and rates to rise dramatically, putting additional financial strain on facilities.
“Fewer people are able to do these jobs, and then there are the recruiting agencies creating cost issues,” Laughlin said. “We have to go get that money…and try to make sure that we can allocate it specifically to our Medicaid facilities to try to help stabilize some of their staffing patterns.”
In retirement homes and HCBS, 2-4% of workers were travellers. That number has grown to more than 20%, Laughlin said. This is about four to five times the amount seen before the pandemic. He said this has led to an increase of around 600% in costs for workers like certified practical nurses (CNAs).
These additional funding envelopes would prevent many of these nursing homes from closing and improve access to nursing home care.
Laughlin said the HCPF will continue to listen to nursing facilities and help them gain greater financial flexibility so they can focus on providing the best care for their residents.