The nursing home industry was not prepared to handle the coronavirus, with outbreaks killing tens of thousands of elderly residents. But the health crisis presents operators with a financial upside. Patients with COVID-19 could be worth more than four times what homes are able to charge for long-term residents with relatively mild health issues. Patient advocates and industry experts fear the premium pay available for coronavirus patients — and a simultaneous easing of regulations around transfers — could tempt some home operators to move out low-paying residents to bring in more lucrative COVID-19 patients, despite the obvious health risks to residents and staff. A new Medicare reimbursement system that went into effect last fall pays nursing homes substantially more for new patients — including those released from a hospital — particularly for the first few weeks. Under those guidelines, COVID-19 patients can bring in upward of $800 per day.
“There are probably some unscrupulous operators who would jump at this,” said David Grabowski, a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School. Especially if they have civil and criminal immunity for any care or services provided during the pandemic.
It is only going to get worse for the industry because they took too long to take it seriously and to train and protect the caregivers. Projections from an internal report show that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month.
The Trump administration is projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths from coronavirus over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 deaths per day in June, nearly double from the current level of about 1,750. Trump said deaths in the United States could reach 100,000, twice as many as he had forecast just weeks ago.