A Closer Look at Nursing Facility Readiness for New Staffing Minimums

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In late April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) established new staffing standards for long-term care (LTC) facilities, mandating a minimum of 3.48 hours of nursing care per patient per day, with 33 minutes of that care from a registered nurse, at least one of whom must be always on site. The rule is slated to go into effect in two years for urban nursing homes and three years for rural nursing homes, with some facilities able to apply for hardship exemptions. Although about one in five LTC facilities nationwide currently meet these staffing standards, staffing levels vary greatly by both state and facility ownership profile. In 28 states, fewer than a quarter of LTC facilities meet the new standards, and in eight states fewer than 10% of facilities are already in compliance. Facilities in Texas are the least ready, with only 4% meeting the new staffing minimums. In terms of ownership structure, only 11% of for-profit facilities—which constitute nearly three quarters of all LTC facilities nationwide—have staffing levels that meet the new staffing minimums. The Government Accountability Office projects this new rule will cost LTC facilities $43B over the first ten years, a significant expense at a time when recruiting and retaining nursing talent is already challenging. Citing the risk of mass closures from facilities unable to comply, nursing home trade groups are suing to stop the mandate from going into effect, and there is also a bill advancing in the House that would repeal the staffing ratios. That bill is backed by the American Hospital Association, which fears the mandate “would have serious negative, unintended consequences, not only for nursing home patients and facilities, but the entire health continuum.”

Gist LTC Staffing Graphic
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