In an unusual alliance, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 joined with Genesis HealthCare (NYSE: GEN) administrators in Connecticut on Thursday to stave off the closure of several skilled nursing facilities in the state due to low occupancy.
Under a provision in Connecticut’s biennial budget, nursing homes that have an occupancy rate below 70% could lose their Medicaid funding as of July 1. Specifically, there are about 15 nursing homes that would be affected, some of which are Genesis homes, SEIU 1199 spokesman Pedro Zayas told Skilled Nursing News.
The specific language of the budget makes it hard to tell how the cuts might play out.
“For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, no facility shall receive a rate that is more than two per cent lower than the rate in effect on June 30, 2019, unless the facility has an occupancy level of less than seventy per cent, as reported in the 2018 cost report, or an overall rating on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare of one star for the three most recent reporting periods as of July 1, 2019, unless the facility is under an interim rate due to new ownership,” the document reads.
The 15 homes projected to close due to occupancy are above a one-star rating, Zayas said. Ideally, the union would want to work with one-star facilities to add training and see if they can improve, he noted.
Genesis operates 18 SNFs in Connecticut, Genesis spokesperson Lori Mayer said in a statement emailed to SNN.
“Unfortunately, under state policy, nursing homes with an occupancy rate of less than 70 percent of licensed beds may lose significant funding as of July 1st,” she said in the statement. “As a result, Genesis and the SEIU have come together to fight for our state’s seniors and the care they deserve.”
Almost 2,000 Genesis caregivers and about 1,400 residents could be affected by the closures if they occur, Rob Baril, president of District 1199 SEIU New England, said in a press conference held on Thursday.
“It’s really unique for us as a union to join together with employers,” Baril noted at the conference. “But this is an issue of public policy that potentially is going to hurt thousands of caregivers, putting them out of work, and hurt our economy by negatively impacting care for the elderly.”
The state policy allows no opportunity to improve resident census or occupancy level, or reduce bed capacity, Baril said during the conference.
And closing them could take out more than skilled nursing bed capacity in the Constitution State.
“Most of these homes have been very creative in adding services that don’t contribute to nursing home occupancy, but that add to the community,” Zayas told SNN. “[Things] like dialysis treatment centers and hospice centers, that technically don’t add to census.”
SNFs with high Medicaid populations will be hit particularly hard, Baril said in the press conference; Zayas estimated that the SNFs in question are funded 80% to 100% through this revenue source.
The Medicaid cuts could be devastating for the centers, Kate Bartelmo, director of social services at the Genesis facility Kimberly Hall North in Windsor, Conn., said at the press conference.
Baril called for the Department of Social Services and its new commissioner, Deirdre Gifford, to grant nursing homes the certificates of need necessary to delicense nursing home beds. Some of the nursing homes have been looking into giving back the licenses for their beds, but have run into regulatory issues doing so, Zayas told SNN.
“Our cities are where there are concentrations of poverty. Those are Medicaid residents,” Baril said during the press conference. “Especially around our cities, those are the homes that are most likely to face closures.”
This story has been updated to include comments from Genesis.