New York Must Prioritize the Care of Older Adults and Aging New Yorkers
By Catherine Gill, CEO and Administrator
It is no secret that these days, Americans live far longer than we used to. Thanks to modern medicine and a whole host of social and technological advancements that have taken place over the last century, many of us will be lucky enough to live well into our 80s and 90s!
While our longevity and the ability to live independently for as long as possible is something to celebrate, it is important to acknowledge that this longevity also means that seven in ten U.S. citizens will need some form of long-term care or aging services at some point in their lives. Even in the case where you have family and friends to help support you as you age, it is almost certain that your medical and personal care needs, at some point in your life, will require professional help.
The good news is that there is a whole continuum of aging services and long-term care provider types, and right now, there are many non-profit providers in New York including those found here on our healthcare campus, that are dedicated to supporting older adults in leading their best lives, whatever their needs may be.
The unfortunate news is that long-term care and aging services providers have been neglected by New York State for some time now. Many providers depend on state and federal funding in order to provide high-quality services and care.
For example, nearly 75 percent of the nursing home care delivered in New York is paid for by Medicaid (this is true for St. Luke Health Services). Today, nursing homes are currently operating on Medicaid rates that were last updated in 2007 – since then, the cost of providing these medical services has risen by 42 percent.
The underfunding of nursing homes and other aging services providers has gone on for over 10 years. Non-profit providers have done their best to shoulder these financial losses and continue operating while also maintaining a high level of quality care for a long time. But after over two years of the emotional, operational, and financial losses of the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term care system is at a critical crossroads. Non-profit providers are closing their doors and selling to for-profits at an accelerating rate, and since 2019, 6,700 nursing home beds have been taken out of operation due to lack of staff and lack of financial support.
This reduction in nursing home beds, and the closure and sale of non-profit and publicly-run organizations, is manifesting as a growing lack of access to quality long-term care and aging services for New York’s older adults and individuals with disabilities. This reality has become so stark that the lack of access to post-acute services is also now leading to back up in hospital services, because hospitals are unable to discharge patients.
The long-term care and aging services sector is at a breaking point, and the consumers of these services, as well as the rest of the health care continuum, are beginning to feel the impact of more than a decade of neglect and underfunding. In 2023, it is critical that New York State finally right the ship.
We are joining efforts urging NY Governor Hochul and the State Legislature to provide a 20% Medicaid rate increase to nursing homes like St. Luke in the upcoming State budget. The State must make significant and meaningful investments in long-term care, raising Medicaid rates to better match current costs and investing in other preventative health programs that serve older adults. With a growing aging population and a growing demand for these services, the dynamics currently at play will only worsen without historic, meaningful investment.
Support for aging services and the system that cares for older adults is a reflection of our values. New York must ensure we create a system that is prepared to care for older adults the way they have cared for us all this time. Crisis is unfolding now, and every month that our leaders wait to confront it will mean hardships for more older adults and more New York families.