I read in today’s Roanoke Times an article reporting action taken by the State Corporation Commission to reduce the burden of ever increasing premiums on long-term care insurance policies. This is a great idea. A study conducted by Virginia’s Bureau of Insurance revealed state regulators approved 82 long-term rate increases sought by 33 insurance companies between 2009 and 2013. The average annual premium increase was 36 percent, with some increases as high as 100 percent.
The action by the Virginia State Corporation Commission is to be commended. However, what would really help the thousands of residents in Virginia nursing homes is action by our General Assembly to set minimum staffing guidelines for all long-term care facilities.
Here is how this problem presents itself in every nursing home in Virginia: The daily amount the nursing home receives for caring for a resident is capped by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. In order to increase profits for the owners, the nursing home cuts its operating costs. How? By reducing the nursing staff to unacceptable levels. Try one or two LPNs caring for 20 or 25 residents. This results in greater profits for the owners and very poor care for the residents.
There have been previous attempts to pass legislation in Virginia requiring minimal staffing numbers in long-term care facilities but all have failed. Wonder if the long-term care industry, including Roanoke’s very own Medical Facilities of America, has made the right connections and contributions to our state representatives to make sure adequate staffing laws never pass? And if any owner of a nursing home tells you that dangerously low staffing numbers is the only way they can make a profit, ask them why they are building more and more new facilities every year. I doubt it is because they want to lose money!