In an industry devastated by the coronavirus, some patient advocates and industry experts fear nursing home operators may seek to take advantage of the premium pay offered for admitting COVID-19-positive patients, according to a Los Angeles Times article Sunday.

The article points to Medicare’s Patient Driven Payment Model, which took effect this past fall and pays nursing homes substantially more for new patients — including those released from a hospital — particularly for the first few weeks. Under those guidelines, COVID-19 patients can bring in upward of $800 per day, according to nursing home administrators and medical directors interviewed by the newspaper. By contrast, facilities collect as little as $200 per day for long-term residents who have dementia, the industry experts said.

Despite the obvious health risks to residents and staff, some advocates are concerned that the increased reimbursement could tempt some skilled care providers to move out low-paying residents to being in more lucrative COVID-19 patients.

“There are probably some unscrupulous operators who would jump at this,” David Grabowski, Ph.D., a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, told the newspaper, although he also said he thought most would not. “I’d be a little suspicious of a low-quality nursing home that’s jumping to the head of the line for this,” he said.

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the McKnight’s Business Daily, a free daily newsletter that is a joint effort of McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. For subscription information, visit this page.