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How Medicare and Medicaid Services Cuts in October May Affect Nursing Homes

In one way or another, everyone is feeling the pinch of the economic crisis. And beginning in October, nursing homes will be no exception, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will cut reimbursement rates to nursing homes by 11.1%. According to an article on The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Blog, these cuts may affect staffing and services at nursing home facilities.

In the article, Larry Minnix, CEO of LeadingAge is quoted as saying, “Estimates are that tens of thousands of care staff could lose their jobs in order to balance this kind of deep cut.”

What could that mean for your loved one who may be in a skilled nursing facility? It will be more important than ever to find a home with a quality staff. According to a study titled “Relationship of Nursing Home Staff to Quality Care” published in Health Services Research journal, a nursing home with more staff consistently “provided better care than all other homes.”

So SmartMoney.com put together the following list of what experts suggest you look for when researching a nursing home with a quality staff to care for your loved one.

Adequate Staff: Federal law requires that nursing homes that receive Medicare or Medicaid aid have at least one registered nurse on staff at all times, as well as other license staff “sufficient’ to meet residents needs. According to a report by CMS, a nursing home should at minimum have enough staff so that each resident gets to spend a minimum of two hours with a nursing assistant and 45 minutes with a licensed nurse each day. In an ideal situation, a resident would spend nearly three hours per day with a nursing assistant and one hour with a licensed nurse.

Low Turnover and Decent Pay: In the article, Minnix said that a turnover rate of less than 30% per year may indicate that the staff is relatively happy. A higher pay rate may also indicate higher job satisfaction. For comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the average rate for a nurse in a home is about $28 per hour, and the average rate for a nursing aide is about $11 per hour.

Well-Qualified Staff: It’s always a good idea to meet the nursing home staff to assess if they seem trustworthy and reliable. Some questions to ask might include what are their qualifications, how long they have worked with the elderly, what their typical day is like, and what they like and don’t like about their jobs. According to the article, experts say that nurses and senior staff should have worked with the elderly for at least five year.

Background Checks: According to a 2011 report by the Office of the Inspector General, nearly one in five nursing homes employ five or more people with a criminal record. You should ask the facility if they do background checks. Although they may not show you the specific background check, they should be able to tell you if they screen staff.

It’s never an easy decision to place a loved one in a nursing home. But with the proper tools and research, you can find a facility that will give your family member the care and attention they deserve.