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Senior Nursing Facilities at “Crisis Stage”

Nursing facilities across the state are "at a crisis stage," with 20 closing last year and an estimated 39 more to close this year, according to Frank Romano, president of Essex Group Management Corp., which owns Blaire House of Milford and several other senior care facilities throughout the state. The main reason for this is that Medicaid reimbursements

are smaller than the actual costs of providing care, he said. "After 40 years in this business,

I've never seen it as bad as it is today," Romano said at Blaire House's tenth annual legislative event, held on March 25 in Milford. "The Current State of Senior Care in Massachusetts and the Nation" forum also featured remarks by State Senator Ryan Fattman, R. Sutton; State Representative Danielle Gregoire, D. Marlborough; and State Representative Brian Murray,

D. Milford. Salaries and benefits typically account for 75 percent of every dollar spent at a senior nursing facility, Romano explained. Romano noted that Blaire House's nursing facility manages through a $300,000 deficit because, as a campus, it offers other services that can

offset that loss. He noted that to be competitive in wages, it has to start people off at $15 per hour while being reimbursed only $12 per hour. And, Romano stated, the job of a trained certified nursing assistant (CNA) is far different than a worker at a Dunkin Donut franchise

or a Walmart store. The state's Medicaid reimbursement has not changed since 2007, Fattman said, outlining several pieces of pending legislation that could help the situation. There are 401 nursing homes in Massachusetts with operating deficits, the senator said – with some deficits as high as $1 million each year. "There's no business that can operate like that for the long haul," Fattman said. In addition to pending legislation, Fattman said, people need to take personal responsibility by paying for long-term care insurance. "You, as an industry, have our attention," stated Gregoire. Last year, she chaired the House Committee on Elder Affairs and is now chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Oversight. "This issue is something facing every person in Massachusetts." "There is no question that this industry is in crisis," Murray said. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he gets to hear first-hand from top officials in Governor Charles Baker's administration, he said. But, there is a discrepancy between what the nursing home industry says and what the Executive Office of Health and Human Services says about the problem, Murray noted. "Advocacy is key," he stated. "We need to get correct information." Because of the reimbursement gap and the subsequent losses in nursing facilities' operating budgets, bankers are now compounding the problem by refusing to lend to or refinance existing facilities, Romano said. It took him months to get federal government permission, but Romano said he now has permission to recruit up to 150 people from Puerto Rico to be CNAs at his facilities, Romano stated.


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