Investing in quality with increased Medicaid funding and
workforce solutions to strengthen retention top the agenda
The Florida Health Care Association, which represents nearly 700 nursing centers and assisted living facilities across Florida, today released its 2023 legislative priorities for long term care. Topping the list of priorities are increasing Medicaid funding to help nursing centers with ongoing quality improvements and authorizing the use of Qualified Medication Aides, which would free up nurses to focus on higher-level caregiving.
Nursing centers have been steadily improving in measures affecting both short- and long-stay residents’ health outcomes, and the FHCA priorities would advance this positive trend. Over 65% of nursing centers have a 4- or 5-star rating from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and 75% of centers have earned one or more quality recognition, such as Joint Commission accreditation or a Baldrige-based National Quality Award. Florida also outpaces the nation in several quality indicators, with more residents making improvements in functioning in their activities of daily living and fewer experiencing a fall or depression or needing to receive antipsychotic medications.
FUNDING: Florida’s Prospective Payment System for Medicaid reimbursement was designed as an incentive for nursing centers to achieve these types of quality goals that improve resident outcomes, and increased funding from the Legislature would help providers make additional quality advancements. FHCA is asking lawmakers for a $311 million increase, which will reward providers for specified quality improvements through a 4% increase in the quality incentive portion of Medicaid funds and help providers keep up with the inflationary costs of delivering care. This investment in workforce training and other measures to improve staffing, along with updated systems and medical technologies, will lead to higher quality care and better resident outcomes.
WORKFORCE: Faced with a historic nursing workforce shortage, FHCA is also asking the Legislature to support policies that will help ensure a pipeline of caregivers to meet the needs of Florida’s aging seniors and people with disabilities. FHCA is supporting legislation [SB 558/HB 351] that would authorize a new level of qualified health care professionals, known as Qualified Medication Aides, to administer appropriate medications to residents – freeing up nurses to focus on higher-level caregiving. Too much of nurses’ time and energy is spent on routine medication distribution, but when nurses can concentrate on higher-level care, they can better detect medical conditions early – leading to more successful treatment outcomes and fewer costly trips to the hospital for residents.
Emmett Reed, FHCA Chief Executive Officer, said the legislation could also help strengthen workforce retention and alleviate shortages by increasing nurses’ overall job satisfaction and creating pathways for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) to earn higher wages and broaden their career opportunities in nursing. CNAs with at least one year of experience would be eligible for additional training to become a Qualified Medication Aide, helping to boost upward job mobility for these frontline caregivers.
As lawmakers consider litigation reform, FHCA is also working to educate the Legislature about the importance of bringing equity to the long term care sector and the impact that the “sue-to-settle” climate has on operations, as lawsuits divert resources necessary for investing in quality and damage staff morale.
“We have always been thankful for the support we’ve received from previous Legislatures, but the long term care sector still faces a mounting crisis of long-standing economic and workforce challenges,” Reed said. “The investments we make now will help us forge ahead toward our goals of improving quality, strengthening our workforce, and ensuring that our state’s seniors and people with disabilities have access to the high-quality care they need, today and into the future. We look forward to working with policymakers on advancing these solutions to improve the lives of the thousands of Floridians who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities every day.”