illustration of Lois Bowers
Lois Bowers headshot

As more older adults start to age into senior living, more scrutiny will be on providers, and we’ll see more articles like the one in the Washington Post on Thursday.

The article, focused on communities where residents were “evicted” when they no longer could afford to pay out of pocket for care and services, does not paint assisted living providers in an especially flattering way.

Older adults who are Medicaid beneficiaries, according to writer Christopher Rowland, “face an especially precarious situation” in assisted living because, unlike in nursing homes, federal law does not protect them from eviction. The state of assisted living public policy is “still in its Wild West phase,” Justice in Aging Attorney Eric Carlson is quoted as saying.

National Center for Assisted Living Executive Director LaShuan Bethea cites “chronic Medicaid underfunding,” and Argentum VP of Government Relations Paul Williams points out that the difference between Medicaid and private-pay rates often is quite large. Also, Medicaid beneficiaries living in assisted living can progress to needing an advanced level of care not offered where they live, so a move is necessary, according to a spokesperson for one of the providers discussed.

It’s not as if the industry is unsympathetic to the stress that residents and their families feel related to evictions. Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Rick Abrams is quoted as saying: “Not only is it traumatic for the resident and the family, it’s also traumatic for the facility. It really is. This is the residents’ home. Everyone understands that.”

As the spotlight increasingly shines on assisted living, provider advocates no doubt will continue to make the case for higher Medicaid rates and other needs. Smart operators will help the industry’s reputation — and save some stress for themselves and residents and their families — by being as transparent as possible with prospects during the sales and marketing process about the number of Medicaid-eligible units their communities have and whether a chance exists that a resident will not be able to stay once the private money runs out. The industry also has an opportunity to continue to educate consumers in general about what assisted living is and isn’t.

Lois A. Bowers is the editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Read her other columns here.