The Washington Post: How Government Incentives Shaped the Nursing Home Business–and Left it Vulnerable to a Pandemic (November 27, 2020)
Federal money, through the Medicare and Medicaid systems, has long shaped the nursing home business — and in ways that left it completely vulnerable when the viral pandemic arrived in March.
For years, extra money has gone to pay for extra services, encouraging some nursing home owners to game the system and tempting unscrupulous operators to file false claims for reimbursement. In the recent past, the gold standard was physical and occupational therapy; now it’s respiratory care.
But stringent infection control, which might have kept the coronavirus at bay, has never been a revenue producer, even now during the pandemic. Similarly, there is no monetary incentive to hire more registered nurses, although studies suggest they have been crucial in minimizing covid-19 casualties in nursing homes.
“There’s a mountain of actuaries and accountants out there” advising nursing home operators on the most profitable services to provide, said Eric Carlson, directing attorney with an advocacy group called Justice in Aging. “That’s where the opportunities are financially. They’re all over this.”