HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) – In 2030, Pennsylvania’s population of residents 85 years and older is expected to nearly double. Long-term care advocates say the commonwealth is not prepared.
More than 70 percent of nursing home care is paid for by Medicaid. Advocates say Pennsylvania’s aging population is generating an immense demand at a time when Medicaid reimbursement payments for care still continue to fall short of rising costs. A lack of worker availability is only making it more difficult. Despite a historic investment in Medicaid in last year’s state budget, advocates remain worried about the future of long-term care.
“We need to ensure that our senior citizens and our adults with disabilities can access the care that they need and deserve,” said Shamberg, adding that last year was about survival and this year is about sustainability.
With a new fiscal year just around the corner, he has a simple question for lawmakers:
“Who will care for our aging population if our providers cannot afford to keep their doors open,” asked Shamberg.
Providers like Noelle Kovaleski, the administrator at Carbondale Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in northeast Pa, say although last year’s investments were vital, there’s still work that needs to be done.
“The increase certainly helped, but unfortunately it is not enough to sustain our future. Every day I fear that I am not going to have enough staff to care for my residents. I spend sleepless nights trying to figure out how we will just get through the next day, the next week,” said Kovaleski. “I can honestly say I am more afraid now than I was on April 1st, 2020.”
Kovaleski says long-term care providers are experts in doing more with less. Her residents depend on her to “fight the good fight.” It’s been a difficult fight for many years and without new investments, she worries it will become even more difficult, if not impossible. She hopes the Legislature will show they care by making a $99.1 million investment for 2023-24.
“Without that, I’m afraid the future is pretty grim for long-term care,” said Kovaleski.
$42 million would fund infrastructure and operational expenses like food, utilities, technology and structural renovations.
“The cost of food, labor and utilities continue to climb at monumental rates over the past three years, and we did not have the revenue stream to support it,” said Kovaleski.
$57 million would fund workforce recruitment, which Kovaleski says is the greatest challenge facing providers across the Commonwealth.
“The biggest challenge is staffing. Every nursing home struggles to keep their staff, to retain their staff, to hire new staff,” said Kovaleski.
House lawmakers from both parties attended today’s rally, signaling bipartisan agreement to a long-term solution for long-term care. The rally featured more than 50 providers who work in nursing homes, assisted living communities, and personal care homes.