James Balda headshot
Argentum President and CEO James Balda

Assisted living provides a value proposition that could reduce federal spending and improve quality of life for older adults, Argentum President and CEO James Balda said in a letter this week to congressional leadership.

By some estimates, he said, assisted living annually saves Medicaid $43.4 million in additional expenses. Without the care option, he said, as many as 61% of older adults might be forced into skilled nursing facilities, which typically are double the average cost of assisted living.

The assisted living care and service model’s focus on social determinants of health, chronic disease management, social interaction and care coordination also contributes to Medicare savings in the form of reduced loneliness and social isolation — a $2.2 billion annual savings — and reduced hospitalizations through care coordination — $13.2 billion in annual savings, Balda said.

Along with increasing the productivity and economic output of families, assisted living has “extremely high” customer satisfaction, including surveys where residents and families rated assisted living as improving quality of life, and providing sufficient healthcare and access to care, he said.

“The assisted living model of care is one that makes sense from a quality of life perspective and a fiscal perspective,” Balda wrote.

2023 agenda

Touting the value of senior living is one of the items on Argentum’s congressional agenda for 2023, along with investing in workforce development and expanding veterans’ access to assisted living.

Balda said the nation’s population is aging at its most rapid rate in history, but the workforce is not there to meet the growing demand. And although the overall economy largely has recovered job losses from the pandemic, that is not the case in senior living.

“Since the start of the pandemic, senior living providers have lost more than 100,000 caregivers — resulting in 96% of senior communities facing staff shortages and 61% concerned that the staffing shortages might force them to close,” Balda wrote. “We are deeply concerned that if we don’t act now, there simply will not be enough caregivers to meet the needs of the tens of millions of seniors who will need help in the coming decades.”

Although several provisions passed in the 2023 omnibus appropriations bill will help address the workforce crisis, Balda said that “much more” needs to be done. Much of the federal infrastructure, he said, already is in place to better meet industry needs, requiring a simple “retooling,” he said.

Balda pointed to the Argentum-proposed Safeguarding Elderly Needs for Infrastructure and Occupational Resources (SENIOR) Act as an example of how current federal workforce programs could help alleviate the crisis. Another piece of legislation, the Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act, would expand veterans’ access to assisted living, saving $69,101 per placement per year compared to a community nursing home, he said.

In addition, Balda said that “common-sense” changes to the immigration system also are necessary to address the workforce shortage.