The Florida Health Care Association entered the 2022 Legislative Session with its members facing a historic staffing shortage, but by Sine Die it had delivered the tools long-term care facilities needed to continue providing quality care to Florida seniors.
State law requires nursing homes and assisted living facilities to provide residents with a certain number of nursing care hours each day.
But factors such as nurse burnout — a nationwide problem exacerbated by the pandemic — and an elder population that’s growing faster than the nursing workforce, meeting those minimums has become costly, if not impossible for some facilities. In fact, 92% of nursing homes reported staffing shortages in 2021.
Meanwhile, residents’ needs have changed in the 20-plus years since the current care requirements were put in place, and specialized, non-nursing staff are in the best position to help.
So, FHCA sought to change the rules with a “modernization” plan that would provide long-term care facilities with some regulatory relief while maintaining quality-of-life standards for their residents.
The vehicles were HB 1239, sponsored by Rep. Lauren Melo, and SB 804 by Sen. Ben Albritton. The billsstrike out a requirement that facilities provide residents with 3.6 hours of “nursing” care and instead says nursing facilities would have to provide 3.6 hours of “direct care” to the resident.
Those care hours could be delivered by “direct care staff,” a term that includes professionals from several disciplines, including respiratory therapists, social workers, and those providing therapeutic and mental health services.
The needs of nursing home residents have changed significantly since staffing requirements were established more than 20 years ago, and specialized staffing better meets those needs.
FHCA CEO Emmett Reed, Chief Lobbyist Toby Philpot and Senior Director of Policy & Reimbursement Tom Parker were successful in convincing lawmakers to greenlight Melo’s version of the bill, which now awaits a signature from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Securing the long-sought change alone would have made for a successful Session, but FHCA added icing with a major funding boost for nursing centers.
The budget passed by lawmakers includes a 7.8% increase in Medicaid funding for long-term care facilities, which amounts to about $419,000 per care center. The extra cash will help FHCA’s more than 700 member facilities become more competitive employers and, ultimately, provide their residents with higher-quality care.