Adequate Medicaid Rate for Texas Nursing Homes Key to Improving Care for Seniors
Adequate Medicaid rate for Texas nursing homes key to improving care for seniors
By Ashley Clark, Star Local Media contributor
Friday, March 20, 2015
Austin is abuzz right now as the legislative session revs up a full head of steam going into its third month and lawmakers begin to vote in committees on budget issues that will impact all of us over the next two years.
Texas is a big state with big issues, a big budget and a big rainy day fund. Many Texans are depending on economic investments that foster a strong jobs market that will keep Texas leading the nation in many respects.
There is a large population of Texans that has already spent their entire lives investing in this great state, saving for retirement and paying taxes that helped fund roads, bridges, schools and government programs. Now their health has declined along with their personal funds.
As legislators determine budget needs, it is important to keep the promise to help the frail elderly who need it most.
As a facility administrator for Cross Timbers Rehab and Health Care Center in Flower Mound, I am able to witness the life-changing impact of round-the-clock, personalized care for hundreds of frail elderly from our Flower Mound community, most of whom are able to go home after short stays of rehabilitation with us.
Cross Timbers’ caregiving team and I are passionate about the health, comfort, and quality of life of our patients. Therefore, we are driven to further elevate the quality of long-term care that we provide. For that reason, we are engaged in the Commitment to Care (C to C), a comprehensive ongoing initiative launched by the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) to facilitate a concerted effort among nursing home providers to improve the delivery of long-term care services through increased transparency, collaboration and dedication to sharing best practices to maximize positive outcomes for our vulnerable seniors.
Commitment to Care acknowledges providers have a lead role and responsibility in promoting and maintaining a compassionate, effective and efficient care environment. C to C also recognizes that long term care providers cannot achieve the goal of moving Texas to the top of the nation in nursing home care quality without the support and contribution of senior care stakeholders, including lawmakers.
Two-thirds, or roughly 57, 000, seniors in nursing homes across Texas are Medicaid beneficiaries. They are depending on a return on that investment they made for all the years of their working life to assist them at their most vulnerable time. Yet for years, Texas’ Medicaid rate for nursing home care has hovered near the bottom of the fifty states.
In fact, by the state’s own estimate, Medicaid long term care funding is short by $343 million. But that’s just a number. There is a very human element that isn’t recognized in budget language or mathematical methodologies.
At times it’s easy to feel under siege as a long term care professional, given that media reports generally don’t focus on the positive strides made in skilled nursing care. Rarely do we read a touching story about the compassionate care delivered by our frontline caregivers to an elderly patient, even though that interaction happens several times over every day throughout Texas’ nursing homes and here at Cross Timbers.
That said, there is another reason this profession can be stressful and that is the challenge in attracting a qualified pool of employees to the long term care setting. A consistently low Medicaid rate that doesn’t even cover the actual cost of care makes it more than difficult to hire and retain personnel who have families to support and who can make more money in other sectors. The chronically underfunded Medicaid rate strains facility budgets and hampers any facility’s ability to make continuous and permanent care enhancements – a trademark of adequate staffing.
We respectfully urge the legislature to make its investment in the goal to make Texas a national leader in nursing home care by closing the gap in Medicaid funding for our deserving elderly.
Ashley Clark is the facility administrator for Cross Timbers Rehab and Health Care Center in Flower Mound