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Nursing Home Care Suffers from Medicaid Inequities

December 7, 2006

Seattle, WA - A new study of Washington's 246 nursing homes confirms those that take fewer Medicaid patients are able to give more and better care, and pay their employees better, than those with a majority of low-income Medicaid patients.

The Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!) study focused on direct care, the one-on-one time that nursing assistants spend with residents. It found that patients in the highest-income facilities receive an average of 44 more minutes per day of direct care than those in low-income facilities. Spokesman Joshua Welter explains the consequences of less direct care are saddening.

"The number of residents who experience bedsores and the percent of residents who spend most of their time in a bed or a chair both increase as the Medicaid load increases."

Robin Schuett-Hames is also with Washington CAN! and has placed two grandparents in nursing homes in the past few years. She says money impacts both the numbers of caregivers and their morale.

"If you don't have the money to have enough staff, it doesn't matter how caring you are... you can't be in 10 rooms at once, taking care of 10 patients."

Medicaid reimburses nursing homes based on their budgets, so those with lower budgets automatically receive less money for patient care. That cycle could be broken with legislation to make the reimbursements more equitable, something that Washington CAN! says it will propose in January.

Chris Thomas/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WA