The Nursing homes industry is lobbying congress saying that they cannot pay Health care workes’ insurance; the same insurance that allows the industry to function.
Nursing Homes Seek Exemptions From Health Law
Joanna D. Knox says her New Mexico nursing home cannot pay more for employee coverage.
By ROBERT PEAR
Published: May 15, 2011
WASHINGTON — It is an oddity of American health care: Many nursing homes and home care agencies do not provide health insurance to their workers, or they pay wages so low that employees cannot afford the coverage that is offered.
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Vanessa Valerio, a nursing assistant, says she cannot afford the $25 monthly payment toward insurance at Ms. Knox’s facility.
The numbers are stark. Among workers who provide hands-on care to nursing home residents, one in four has no health insurance. Among those who provide care to people living at home, one in three is uninsured.
The new health care law is supposed to fix the problem by guaranteeing access to affordable coverage for all. But many nursing homes and home care agencies, alarmed at the cost of providing health insurance to hundreds of thousands of health care workers, have started a lobbying effort seeking some kind of exemption or special treatment.
Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association, the largest trade group for nursing homes, says the problem is that reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare, set by government agencies, do not pay them enough to offer their employees medical coverage. “We do not have much ability to increase prices because we are so dependent on Medicaid and Medicare” for revenue, he said.
Mr. Parkinson acknowledged that when nursing homes do offer health insurance to employees, the benefits are often limited. The coverage “is probably not up to what will be required” by the federal law, he said.
Medicaid covers about two-thirds of nursing home residents. States set Medicaid rates, and many states, facing severe budget problems, have reduced payments for nursing homes.
Starting in 2014, the law will require employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer affordable coverage or risk paying a penalty. For a midsize nursing home, that penalty could easily exceed $200,000 a year. Nursing home executives are urging Congress and the Obama administration to spare them from the penalties.
Vanessa Valerio, 25, a certified nursing assistant who earns $10 an hour at Lakeview Christian Home in Carlsbad, N.M., said she was uninsured because she could not afford the coverage offered by her employer.
The chief executive of the Lakeview nursing home, Joanna D. Knox, said the company used to pay the entire premium for employees. It now requires workers to pay $25 of the $585 monthly premium for individual coverage.