ANNAPOLIS – The competition between nursing homes and senior living facilities continues as the nursing home industry fights two bills to allow more senior citizens to live out their years in continuing-care communities.
The two bills were among several heard by the House Economic Matters Committee Wednesday. All were revived after failing for various reasons during the spring General Assembly session.
Nursing home operators told the panel that the playing field is not level. They argued that allowing more people who need nursing care to go to senior living facilities will decrease nursing home occupancy. Senior living facilities may serve only their residents in the nursing beds they set aside, a maximum 20 percent of their capacity.
“We are adamantly opposed to this legislation and we will oppose it as vigorously as we can,” said Mark Woodard, lobbyist for the Health Facilities Association of Maryland.
Last year, the state made senior living residency rules more flexible, allowing an injured or ill patient to move in if their spouse is healthy. This law is discriminatory, said Delegate Katherine Klausmeier, D-Baltimore County, who introduced the direct admission bill.
“If I’m not married and I get sick, I’m stuck out there,” she said.
People should not have to go to nursing homes if they know they are going to get better and can function in a senior living community, regardless of whether they are married to a healthy person, Klausmeier said. “If you wanted to go live in an assisted living community, and you sold your house, paid your money, and then broke your hip, you couldn’t go in that way,” Klausmeier said. “You would have to go to a nursing home, spend a lot of money waiting until you’re healed, and then try and get in to the facility you want. That’s wrong.”
Because most residents of these communities pay for care themselves, having to first pay for nursing home care could deplete their resources, forcing them to rely on Medicare later, said Adam Kane, director of public policy for the Mid-Atlantic Non-Profit Health and Housing Association, which supports the legislation.
Entrance fees to assisted living facilities are usually very high, said Danny O’Brien of Senior Campus Living. O’Brien said Oak Crest Village in Parkville, managed by Senior Campus Living, requires a $75,000 entrance fee. It would be in the state’s interest to allow these people to go into senior living facilities and pay for it themselves, O’Brien said. “We should have the same rules for the sick and the healthy who want to live in retirement communities,” he said. But the legislation’s cost to nursing homes could be too high, Woodard said. As more residents live in senior living facilities instead of nursing homes, nursing home occupancy will decrease, as well as the number of people who pay for nursing home care, leaving the state to make up the difference. “Empty beds mean money lost,” he said. “We will see the same things happening in nursing homes that have happened in hospitals. I don’t think we want to move in that direction.” Though there are about 200 nursing homes in Maryland, there are between 30 to 40 senior living facilities, and the proposed legislation is much too broad for the small problem that exists, Woodard said. It’s not worth changing the law for the three facilities hitting the 20 percent cap, he said. It’s a problem that can be dealt with case by case. -30- CNS-11-17-99