HARRISBURG – Senators Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Dan Laughlin (R-49) today urged the Governor and their colleagues to incorporate adequate additional funding for nursing homes serving Medicaid patients requiring ventilator and tracheostomy care as part of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive efforts to respond to the public health crisis.
Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Pennsylvania has been facing a shortage of ventilator beds in nursing homes across the state. Last year, the largest provider of ventilator and tracheostomy care in the Commonwealth filed for bankruptcy protection due to the chronic underfunding of these services for Medicaid patients.
Currently, only 13 facilities in Pennsylvania treat more than 300 of the state’s 700 patients who require these services, and these facilities are on the decline. As a result, patients are being forced to travel long distances to one of the few remaining nursing homes that specialize in these services, or be forced to receive this care in a hospital setting.
“Now would be the absolute worst time to attempt to move these patients who do not have the coronavirus from nursing homes to hospitals,” Bartolotta said. “Besides requiring more tax dollars since the cost to care for these patients in a hospital is roughly four times higher than in a nursing home, hospitals are trying to clear space for patients who are testing positive for COVID-19.”
While the initiative for additional Medicaid ventilator funding was underway prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the coronavirus outbreak illuminates the concerns consistently identified by providers and advocates.
“You don’t think you will need ventilator support until you need it,” said Jennifer Watson, nursing home administrator for Transitions Washington. “The timeframe for facilities providing ventilator care to keep their doors open doesn’t change in lieu of recent events. In fact, it demonstrates the critical need that these facilities fill within the healthcare continuum.”
“Ensuring that nursing homes are able to assist in caring for this vulnerable population which is not affected by COVID-19 is vital as the state looks to address this public health emergency,” Laughlin said. “We are urging the Governor to make this Medicaid funding a priority to ensure we are not creating any new hardships for the patients who desperately need these services, nor creating an unnecessary burden on our hospitals and staff.”
“For now, we’re here,” said Geni Fisher, vice president at Fox Subacute. “We’re here to take stable ventilator patients out of the hospital so that hospitals can prepare for COVID-19 positive patients requiring this critical respiratory care. Facilities like Fox Subacute that remain dedicated to serving these medically complex individuals have faced significant financial challenges for close to a decade, but that doesn’t absolve us from our mission of caring for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable, especially when there are questions regarding regional capacity to treat the acute health care needs of the broader population during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Senators Bartolotta and Laughlin are sponsors of Senate Bill 959, legislation which dedicates additional Medicaid funding to facilities serving a substantial number of patients who require ventilator and tracheostomy care.