Rate of Skilled Nursing Occupancy Decline Slows, But Still Falls to Another Record Low

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to batter skilled nursing occupancy well into the month of June, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care’s (NIC) Skilled Nursing Monthly Report, with census sinking to a new low even as the pace of decline slowed.

In a blog post published September 10, NIC senior principal Bill Kauffman explored some of the findings from the organization’s Skilled Nursing Monthly Report released last week, which drew from data from its NIC MAP Data Service.

The occupancy rate in SNFs hit a new record low of 74.8% in June, according to Kauffman, even though the pace of decline started to slow during the same month.

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Source: National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care (NIC)

“The 41-basis-point decline from May was the first month-over-month decline in occupancy less than 100 basis points since the start of the pandemic in March,” he wrote. “This suggests that occupancies at skilled nursing properties may be starting to stabilize. However, significant uncertainty remains, especially as fall and winter approach.”

The occupancy rate has dropped 853 basis points from 83.4% in March, and 990 basis points below the February figure. Urban areas saw more decline than rural ones by a significant margin, with a drop of 970 basis points since March, compared with a 539 basis point decline in rural areas.

The findings confirm what multiple operators and SNF real estate investment trust (REIT) landlords have already indicated.

The Kennett Square, Pa.-based Genesis Healthcare (NYSE: GEN) has seen a nosedive in occupancy since the start of the pandemic, with same-store occupancy in its facilities dropping 11% from the first quarter to the second quarter. The operator’s census hit a low of 74.2% in June, though it did see some recovery in July and August. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) LTC Properties (NYSE: LTC) and Sabra Health Care REIT (Nasdaq: SBRA) also reported occupancy drops at their SNFs.

NIC also found that while Medicare revenue mix has stayed relatively steady compared with other payers, it is down 89 basis points since March; managed Medicare, on the other hand, is down 224 basis points since the same month. However, it did increase slightly from May into June, Kauffman noted.

“The stabilization in June suggests that insurance enrollees may have started to resume elective surgeries as states began lifting the suspension of such procedures,” he wrote.

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