When most people think of Medicaid, they think of it as a state-funded program designed for families who need medical coverage but cannot afford it due to their income. What many people may not realize, however, is that six out of ten nursing home residents also rely on Medicaid, and that the total amount of Medicaid funds spent on seniors in long-term care facilities is about five times the amount spent on low-income families.
How Funding Cuts Could Affect Nursing Home Safety
So, what does a possible cut to Medicaid funding mean for seniors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities? While there’s no way to predict the future, there are some negative impacts that are highly likely. Consider, for starters, how nursing homes might struggle to keep their profit margins balanced without help from Medicaid funding. They may be required to cut down on staffing or make sacrifices in other areas of care in order to keep their facilities running. This is an unfortunate reality of running any business.
In fact, many studies have been done on this very situation. One research study looked at the effects financial pressure had on patient safety in hospitals between 1996 and 2000. The findings were that cuts to hospital operating profits overwhelmingly resulted in higher rates of adverse patient safety events. In a nursing home or long-term care facility, this could result in serious patient safety risks and higher rates of injury.
Common Nursing Home Injuries
There are a number of nursing home injuries and other dangers that could become significantly more common to seniors as a result of lower staffing and a lack of financial resources in nursing homes. With less staffing available to assist seniors in getting around the facility, it is fairly safe to assume that instances of slip-and-fall injuries would be on the rise. Even in a scenario where a senior resident did call a staff member for assistance in getting to/from somewhere, low staffing levels may prevent help from arriving in a timely manner, which could make a senior more likely to attempt to unsafely transport themselves.
In addition to slip-and-fall injuries, it is likely that there could be an increase in medication errors. With less staffing available, each staff member will have to be responsible for more patients and fewer resources, making it more likely that medications or dosages may become confused or mixed up.
And of course, emergency response times in long-term care facilities will probably suffer, as there will be fewer staff members available to respond, and those who are available will be spread throughout the facility. As a result, it may take them longer to respond to an emergency, which could be the difference between a patient receiving or not receiving timely care.
Additional concerns regarding patient safety with a decrease in Medicaid funding include:
- increase in resident-on-resident abuse/violence
- poor oversight
- increased abuse and neglect by staff.
There is simply no denying the impact that low staffing in nursing homes can have on patient care. In fact, one study found that “lower staffing levels are associated with heightened risks of poor patient outcomes,” noting that low staffing in nursing homes can lead to emotional and physical burn-out of nurses and nursing assistants. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for them to provide the best possible care to patients and also lowers overall morale.
The Bottom Line
The issue of Medicaid funding via the 2011 Medicaid expansion and current waiver are currently up for debate in Arizona, and this funding issue will continue to arise once every five years. With all of these potential repercussions in mind, it is important for politicians and citizens alike to recognize the true importance of Medicaid funding in protecting our senior citizens and making sure they’re receiving quality care in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Help for You and Your Family
If a family member has been injured while being cared for by a nursing home or long-term care facility in Tucson, AZ, talk with our lawyers for additional information. Nursing home owners, administrators, common workers, medical personnel and anyone associated with the failure in care may be held liable. Filing an injury lawsuit may lead to legal compensation for victims and their families, but it may also help make a change in the care given others in the future.
Based in downtown Tucson, Arizona’s Barrio Historico, our team has litigated all types of personal injury cases since 1994, and we’re here to help you and your family.