HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Help is on the way for long-term care and skilled-nursing facilities. 

Direct investments from the state budget signed by Governor Tom Wolf on Friday, including an increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rate, will amount to an additional $515 million for long-term care in the 2022-23 budget cycle – including federal matches. 

The industry has been struggling with rising health care costs, low Medicaid rates, and more, even before the pandemic, which only exacerbated those challenges. 

“Over the last few months, given all that's happened with the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen nursing homes close. We've seen providers who have had to turn residents away simply because they didn't have enough staff to care for any new residents,” said Zach Shamberg, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. “We believe that this infusion of funds and this investment will allow providers to finally invest in their staff, and to keep staff, and to provide continuity of care for their residents,” said Shamberg. 

The new state budget recognizes those challenges. This morning, healthcare advocates and lawmakers celebrated the major win for long-term care in Gov. Wolf's final budget.

“It's a long-term investment in long-term care and it quite literally could save senior care across Pennsylvania,” said Shamberg. “We think this puts providers and workers and residents on the path to sustainability,” he added. 

Shamberg, and several other associations have been advocating for months, painting a picture of the grim reality facing many long-term care homes and professionals as they struggle to hire and retain staff and pay for rising health care costs. 

“Throughout the pandemic, those costs skyrocketed and now we're seeing increased costs of eight, to nine, to ten percent,” said Shamberg. 

An increasing elderly population is only making matters even more difficult. 

“Pennsylvania has one of the oldest populations in the entire country right now, and we're only getting older. We need to ensure that we have nursing homes that remain open. We need to ensure that we have staff who can care for our seniors,” said Shamberg. “We think this puts providers and workers and residents on the path to sustainability, that we're going to be able to keep our promise to our aging population,” he added. 

Shamberg says there's still work to be done, but he's very optimistic. 

“Republicans and Democrats came together and this was something that they could agree on and prioritize, and that gives me and us a lot of hope that we can continue this good work in the future,” said Shamberg. 

With the current surplus, and $2 billion from the budget set to fill the rainy-day fund to a historic $5 billion, Gov. Wolf is optimistic for the future of long-term as well. 

“Pennsylvania has now come to, over the last four or five years, to the point where we can actually afford to do good things like this,” said Wolf. “They want to attract residents, and the way they attract residents is to have really good people treat their residents well, and to do that, they need to have the financial support and I think that's what we're doing here,” said Gov. Wolf. 

Gov. Wolf says the budget will have a direct impact on the state's most vulnerable. 

“I think what they're going to notice is better care. The ratios are going to get better in terms of giving care,” said Wolf. We need to show them the respect, love and attention that they deserve,” he added. 

The budget breakdown for long-term care investments include: 

  • a 17.5% Medicaid rate increase for nursing homes, which translates to an approximate $35 more per resident per day (including a federal match); 
  • $131 million in American Rescue Plan stimulus funds for nursing homes; 
  • $26.7 million in American Rescue Plan stimulus funds for assisted living communities and personal care homes; 
  • $33 million in Medicaid Day One Incentive (MDOI) payments for nursing homes serving high Medicaid populations (including a federal match); 
  • $4.2 million in American Rescue Plan stimulus funds for nursing homes serving a high number of residents on ventilators; 
  • and a $20 million increase to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) rates for personal care home residents. 

Advocates say increased Medicaid reimbursement rates will be in effect Jan 2023 and American Rescue Plan dollars should be allocated in the next two-to-three months.