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Nursing Homes Poised To Deal With Staffing Challenges

ALBANY — As New York’s nursing homes begin to recover from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed $216 billion budget will help the facilities with retention and recruitment of staffers, a top industry executive says.

Hochul is offering a massive $10 billion multi-year commitment for health care.

A total of $4 billion would be earmarked for wages and bonuses for workers. The package, as outlined in her proposed $216 billion state spending plan, offers $3,000 bonuses for health care workers earning less than $100,000 per year and who remain in their jobs for a year.

Stephen Hanse, the president of New York State Health Facilities Association, called Hochul’s ideas for addressing the workforce crisis at medical facilities “fantastic.”

Nursing homes throughout the state, Hanse said, have been battered by “14 years of disinvestment in long-term care — year upon year of really not doing anything to address the workforce crisis.”

The Hochul plan, Hanse added, also would provide a career ladder allowing certified nursing assistants to become medication aides — allowing them to distribute medicine to those getting care. He noted 47 other states already take that approach.

“New York allows it for assisted living facilities but not for nursing homes,” Hanse explained. The current restrictions on CNAs have added to the stress faced by registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who have to provide the medications when they could be dealing with other medical needs of patients, he said.

To help providers invest in their workforce and compete for qualified health care professionals, the state is prepared to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates, according to Hochul’s budget.

The spending plan would restore a 1.5% cut imposed on nursing homes last year and provide a 1% increase — the first such increase in more than a decade, Hanse noted.

“It does not make up for 14 years of investment but it’s sustainable going forward,” Hanse said, calling the Hochul package “prudent.”

While New York has the nation’s costliest Medicaid program, additional support now for nursing homes is warranted, state government analyst Bill Hammond of the Empire Center for Public Policy has concluded.

“For providers that are heavily or exclusively dependent on Medicaid funding — such as nursing homes for the elderly and group homes for the disabled — there is an undeniable connection between their ability to recruit and retain personnel and the amount of money they receive from the state,” Hammond said in a blog post after Hochul gave a preview of her plans in her State of the State speech.

Hanse said additional investments for nursing homes are crucial now given that New York’s population of individuals who are at least 65 years old is expanding rapidly.

On another front, elements of Hochul’s budget plans impacting private employers were applauded by the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).

Ashley Ranslow, the NFIB director for New York, noted the majority of small business operators will benefit from the plan to quicken the phase-in of middle-class tax cuts. The spending blueprint also calls for no new taxes.

However, she noted that many small businesses are “buckling under the weight of enormous unemployment insurance tax bills.”

NFIB is calling on state leaders to use federal relief funds and state revenue to pay down the state’s outstanding unemployment insurance debt to avoid further increases in what businesses pay in unemployment insurance taxes and special assessments.

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