Wolf, nursing homes come to agreement to boost staff

Wolf on Monday signed legislation authorizing nearly $300 million a year in additional Medicaid reimbursements, or nearly 20% more.

A closeup of Gov. Tom Wolf

File photo: Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address for the 2022-23 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Nursing home trade associations said Monday they have come to an agreement to boost staffing levels at the facilities along with legislation newly signed by Gov. Tom Wolf to boost aid to an industry wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic and struggling with high staff turnover.

With Pennsylvania awash in surplus tax collections, Wolf on Monday signed legislation authorizing nearly $300 million a year in additional Medicaid reimbursements for nursing homes, or nearly 20% more.

That followed trade associations working out a compromise on staffing levels with Wolf’s administration and SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, a labor union that represents about 5,000 nursing home workers.

“This is a major step forward for Pennsylvania’s long-term care industry,” Wolf told a Capitol news conference after signing the legislation.

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Officials say the money should boost worker salaries, staffing levels and retention while stabilizing the facilities’ finances and improving the quality of care.

The Medicaid reimbursement rate increase is the first in almost a decade in a state with one of the largest nursing home populations, trade associations said.

The trade associations had pushed hard for a rate increase, saying some facilities were closing or downsizing because they lose money on each Medicaid-covered resident.

But they also fought Wolf’s initial proposal last year to force them to boost direct care hours by 50%.

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The agreement provides a modest increase in direct care hours — from 2.7 to 2.87 per patient per day — but sets minimum shift ratios for nurses and nursing assistants to patients.

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