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Covid-linked Black and Latino Nursing Home Deaths Linked to Overcrowding

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – Overcrowding in some Illinois nursing homes has caused a disproportionate number of preventable deaths among black and Latino residents living at these facilities, state officials said Wednesday.

The Department of Health and Family Services is proposing $ 300 million in new funding for nursing homes that hire more workers or take other steps to benefit residents. Department head Theresa Eagleson told lawmakers putting three or four people in one room was much more common in Medicaid-funded homes serving black and Hispanic residents. As a result, 60% of COVID-related deaths of nursing home residents between March and July 2020 occurred in facilities where at least 10% of residents were in rooms of three or more people.

Eagleson said his department is working on a proposed change to Medicaid’s pricing structure that will require legislative approval. It will link improved rates more closely to higher staffing levels and good results.

Under this plan, nursing homes would pay an additional “bed tax” which the state, in turn, would use to receive a higher federal match through the Medicaid program. The increase would bring in about $ 300 million more to improve care, according to HFS.

Donna Ginther of the Illinois Board of Health Care, which represents about half of the state’s nursing homes, said the homes would be willing to contribute more income if they were spent on patient care. She also called for increased reimbursement rates in light of rising costs, saying their facilities do not have the money they need to increase staff and wages and recruit new workers.

Democratic Representative Lakesia Collins of Chicago, a former certified nursing home nurse, said understaffing issues are not new but have been magnified by the pandemic. She said any tariff reform must include safeguards to prevent homes from tampering with records to justify higher tariffs.

“With this industry, in particular, it’s about profit on people,” she said.

The report notes that Illinois has increased funding for retirement homes three times in recent years, but staffing levels have hardly increased. This included $ 70 million allocated in 2019 to help nursing homes meet minimum staffing requirements.

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