Make no mistake, a silver tsunami is approaching Florida. By 2030, 30% of Florida’s population will be older than 60, and Florida’s 85+ population is projected to more than triple by 2050. Not only will we have more of these residents, but they will also have longer life expectancies than ever before.
With this ever-growing population of older residents will come a greater number of complex health care needs that will have to be addressed. The Coalition for Silver Solutions is working to ensure that our state’s long-term care system remains viable as our aging population increases. And this will require recurring and predictable funding.
Are we ready?
As we enter the 2020 Legislative Session, it is crucial that lawmakers don’t neglect the tens of thousands of seniors living in our state’s nursing centers, which are among the best in the nation at caring for our most fragile residents. To ensure that this continues, legislators must properly fund our state’s nursing centers to keep pace with wages and other rising costs – something that hasn’t been done in most recent years.
Florida’s nursing homes have been under a rate freeze since 2016, with no increases in their rates even to keep up with inflation.
The Legislature provided a one-time $138 million boost in the 2018 budget, and that certainly helped — but that funding expired, and providers once again find themselves operating at 2016 funding levels. The reality is that staff wages have increased significantly since 2016 — CNA wages, for example, are up over 12%.
The ability of nursing centers to recruit and retain quality staff is directly connected to the level of quality care they can provide.
Nursing centers must draw from a labor pool in a job market in which they compete not only with other health care providers but also with the foodservice and retail industry (everyone from Circle K to Chick-fil-A to Walmart). A strong level of recurring funding will allow nursing centers to offer competitive wages to qualified professionals.
Florida’s nursing centers must deal with a collision between ever-increasing wages, low profit margins, and substantial-quality investments on one hand, and the lack of necessary funding on the other.
This puts tremendous pressure on long-term care providers to continue their significant advancements in quality care.
The Florida Health Care Association urges the Legislature to make the wise decision to properly fund our state’s nursing centers.
Florida should never balance its budget on the backs of our frailest elders and the caregivers who every day make such an important difference in their lives.
Emmett Reed is the executive director of the Florida Health Care Association.