“The American long-term care system, particularly in skilled nursing facilities, has been exposed as deeply flawed, chronically underfunded, and in need of reform.” This bold statement is from Robert Kramer, Founder and Fellow of Nexus Insights, and Co-Founder and Strategic Advisor for NIC. It’s the opening line of his recent blog in Health Affairs.
Kramer delves deeply into the urgent problems facing nursing homes that have been spotlighted on the national stage by the pandemic and its tragic death toll among nursing home residents and staff. Kramer predicts the likely responses we can expect to see from nursing home operators, federal and state regulators and policy makers, and seniors and their families. But he urges, instead, a more thoughtful, complex and multi-faceted approach to solving the challenges of long-term care in nursing homes that involves dispensing with out-of-date assumptions, acknowledging the problems, and aligning the different stakeholders involved.
The problems he sees stem from undervaluing and undercompensating the work of caregivers, and the too-narrow focus of regulatory metrics on physical care needs, rather than the personal goals and aspirations of the residents themselves, and their quality of life. Other challenging problems include the long-term shortage of caregivers for a rapidly growing population of seniors, the lack of financial transparency, inadequate reimbursement models that incentivize the wrong behaviors, the age of nursing home infrastructure, and the financial impact of the COVID-19-related lawsuits that are certain to hit the beleaguered industry as the pandemic winds down.
“Every stakeholder must understand that this is a disruptive moment.” – Bob Kramer
The solutions Kramer proposes will require thoughtful cooperation and coordination among all the players in the industry, including industry providers, organized labor, consumer advocates, investors, and regulators. And it won’t be easy. But as Kramer points out, “Every stakeholder must understand that this is a disruptive moment. SNFs and long-term care are, for a moment, center stage. Those of us who care about this sector, and the millions of Americans it serves, must seize this moment.”