NURSING HOME COSTS: Medicare Will Increase Reimbursement
Effective Oct. 1, the beginning of fiscal year 2001, Medicare will increase reimbursement rates by 4% for all Medicare patients in skilled nursing facilities and will temporarily boost rates by 20% for certain nursing home patients who need more complex care, HCFA officials announced yesterday. With the reimbursement hikes, total Medicare payments to nursing homes in FY 2001 are projected to increase by more than 20% over the projected total for the current year, the Dow Jones Newswire/Wall Street Journal reports. The new payment rates, which are based on increases in the costs of covered care and provisions in 1997 and 1999 laws, will help ensure that Medicare pays skilled nursing facilities "fairly and appropriately," HCFA Administrator Nancy-Ann DeParle said. A final rule including the new rates will be published in the July 31 edition of the Federal Register (7/26).
Regional Costs Vary Widely
The MetLife Mature Market Institute released a study earlier this week revealing that the average cost of nursing home care is $153 per day, the Kansas City Star reports. Costs range from $295 per day in New York City to $90 per day in Hibbing, Minn. While Medicaid picks up most of the tab for nursing home care, "[s]ome places will nickel-and-dime you to death for charges on certain things, because different nursing homes have different definitions on what constitutes standard supplies or standard care," Deanne Lenhart, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said. Sandra Timmerman, director of the MMMI, said, "The projected average cost for one person is $55,000 per year, or $139,500 for the average [length of stay of] 2 1/2 years, causing many families to spend down their assets." The report also found that home health care costs from licensed agencies averaged $16 per hour, ranging from $12 in San Antonio, Texas, to $24 in Hartford, Conn. According to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, 1.6 million nursing home residents live in 17,000 facilities across the country. (Karash, 7/25).