A temporary 25% Medicaid reimbursement rate bump is being called a “lifesaver” for some assisted living providers, according to New Jersey senior living associations.
“We are very thankful the legislature has recognized that our assisted living buildings have had additional expenses,” Kathy Fiery, Health Care Association of New Jersey vice president of assisted living, told McKnight’s Senior Living. “For our Medicaid buildings, this was a difficult year. This is, at least, an acknowledgement that high-occupancy Medicaid buildings are deserving of some additional dollars.”
Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation that makes a fiscal year 2021 supplemental appropriation of $3 million to the Department of Human Services for a temporary 25% increase to assisted living residences and facilities, as well as comprehensive personal care homes, that participate in the Medicaid program. Communities can use the dollars to help increase wages or supplemental pay for certified nurse aides providing direct care, as well as for COVID-19 preparedness and response.
HCANJ Vice President John Indyk said that assisted living communities had a $3-above-minimum-wage increase go into effect this year, along with other COVID-19-related expenses. The wage increase, he added, was particularly difficult for buildings with high Medicaid populations. Although nursing homes were reimbursed for the increased wage expense, assisted living providers did not receive any financial assistance, Indyk said.
“I think for high Medicaid occupancy facilities in urban areas, they were struggling to pay $3 above the minimum wage. This is much needed relief for them,” he said, adding that additional legislation is being developed to continue the funding into the future.
HCANJ is thankful for the additional funding, Fiery said, adding that except for a few weeks worth of funding for COVID-19 testing, assisted living providers have not received any other financial relief.
LeadingAge New Jersey and Delaware also supported passage of the legislation.
“Many mission-driven assisted living providers who make it a point to serve Medicaid and low-income populations do so at a per-client revenue loss, which is not sustainable,” LeadingAge NJ & DE Vice President Meagan Glaser told McKnight’s Senior Living. “As a result of this new legislation, assisted living residences will now be able to expand, rather than limit, their Medicaid client base.”
Glaser said that assisted living program providers will be able to continue providing services within subsidized senior housing buildings, where residents primarily have low incomes and are Medicaid-eligible. Without this reimbursement increase, she said, many assisted living providers were at risk of closing, which would have forced residents to move into higher-cost nursing homes.
“With the recent closures of several non-profit long-term care facilities, it’s more critical than ever that New Jersey look for ways to ensure the stability and sustainability of mission-driven long-term care providers,” she said.