A new report offers some reasons why long-term care leaders have been struggling to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it also provides some potential solutions to those challenges, according to PHI.

“The COVID-19 crisis has exposed and heightened the many flaws in our health and long-term care systems, including the barriers facing direct care workers and long-term care providers,” PHI President Jodi M. Sturgeon said in a statement. The national research and consulting organization focuses on the direct care workforce. “We hope that this report inspires dialogue and solutions for overcoming these barriers, so that we’re never caught unprepared again,” she added.

The report does not address the pandemic specifically but says that one current issue exacerbated by the pandemic is the difficulty in ramping up training due to regulatory requirements and conflicting interests, PHI said.

“Additionally, our current financing system leaves many long-term care providers and direct care workers without enough financial resources, which means that when a crisis hits, they cannot respond at the necessary scale — immediately or over time,” according to the organization. That status leads to actions such as providers arranging fundraisers to pay for personal protective equipment or, in some cases, cutting back on services or facing closure due to inadequate staffing.

Solutions that could help providers and direct care workers include reforming the long-term care financing system and rethinking how the long-term care sector is organized and regulated, PHI said.

Among specific recommendations:

  • Instead of Medicaid, state-based universal long-term services and supports social insurance programs offer the most promise as a new approach to financing LTSS.
  • Licensing gaps in assisted living, and the licensing of home health agencies, would help standardize workforce policy across long-term industries to make it easier to enact and enforce new workforce policies and protections as well as care quality standards.

“If we learn from this crisis and focus on transforming long-term care, we’ll be better able to move a quick response in the future that protects both workers and consumers,” said Stephen Campbell, data and policy analyst at PHI and author of the report, titled “We Can Do Better.”

The new report is the second installment in a year-long series of reports that will examine the importance and impact of the direct care workforce. Read about the first installment here.