Florida subcommittee prioritizes nursing home financial health with transparency bill

Florida legislators emphasized the need for greater financial transparency among nursing homes and other long term care facilities, during a House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meeting. 

 

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During the meeting, lawmakers discussed House Bill 539, a bill sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull (R – Panama City) that would require nursing home facilities to submit yearly reports to the Agency for Health Care Administration documenting their financial activities within 120 days after the end of their fiscal year. 

This would include expenditures, revenues, and other financial measures. 

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D – Orlando) said: 

“We need to see how our money is being spent and the full picture of what’s happening inside of our nursing homes. If we can see where the costs are in nursing facilities, then we can see where funds might be needed.” 

Health care officials briefed the committee on a number of financial problems their  organizations are facing. 

One common frustration amongst the group was regarding staffing agencies that entice health care workers to leave their jobs by offering higher pay. The agencies then  contract them back to companies at a significant markup, the leaders testified. 

Steve Bahmer, president and chief financial officer of Leading Age Florida, explained that nursing homes have had to turn to these agencies as a last resort when short on staff.

Emmett Reed, CEO and executive director of Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), said: 

“Facilities have seen 20% increases in staffing costs.” 

According to an email from FHCA, this rise in staffing costs is connected to an increase in spending for personal protective equipment, and to both test and clean supplies. Many nursing homes have also been paying overtime and heroes pay in an effort to retain staff. 

Heroes pay, or what’s often called hazard pay, is part of an interim federal rule that allows health providers to pay their staff $13 per hour on top of their base pay assuming the aggregate amount doesn’t exceed $25,000 per employee. 

Reed said those increases have led to an additional $275 million in direct care expenses for Florida’s nursing homes. 

Rep. Marie Woodson (D – Hollywood) reminded the committee of the intent of HB539. 

“I know that owners are trying to make a profit, but my priorities are for the seniors and health care workers and so I’d like to be provided that financial information so that I know they’re [needs are] being met.” 

The bill received unanimous approval from the subcommittee and is now in the Senate Appropriations Committee.