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Statewide poll shows nursing homes at tipping point

Special to The Leader

 

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas nursing homes are underfunded and facing a crisis — but that’s no surprise to Texans.

 

A recent survey conducted by Opinion Access, a NY-based polling firm, thru support from the American Health Care Association shows that 81 percent of Texans agree nursing homes in Texas are facing a crisis because the state is not adequately funding them.

 

“These results are alarming, but not surprising,” said Kevin Warren, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association, which advocates for better skilled nursing care. “Texas has shortchanged seniors now for nearly 20 years, and the strain is really starting to show.”

To the 41 percent of Texans who reported visiting a skilled nursing facility in the last year, the issue is personal. The evidence of the state’s chronic underfunding of long term care, is abundant.

 

High staff turnover — as much as 94 percent for registered nurses — means there’s always a new face taking care of loved ones.  Current funding levels make it difficult to invest in facility renovations or new equipment. And a recent in-depth study of nursing home inspections shows as nursing home care continues to improve across the nation, Texas is lagging. Texas posted a nearly 20-percent increase in the total number of health deficiencies cited in nursing home surveys and a 3-percent increase in severe deficiencies from 2010 to 2014.

 

“Texas can do better than that,” Warren said. “The good news out of this poll is that 74 percent of Texans say funding for nursing homes to care for low-income seniors is just as important as spending on transportation, water and education. We’ve got the will to fix this.”

The poll also revealed 80 percent of Texans say they support lawmakers who oppose additional Medicaid cuts to nursing homes and that the state should look elsewhere to balance the budget. “Texans are fiscal conservatives, but they think it’s important to look after the elderly and most vulnerable among us,” Warren said.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • 58 percent of Texans say they would be less likely to vote for a legislator who voted to cut millions in Medicaid payments to nursing homes and skilled nursing centers
  • 79 percent would support a proposal to allow Texas nursing homes to receive additional funding from the federal government without costing the state budget
  • 65 percent say insurance companies should not be allowed to discontinue contracting with nursing homes possibly forcing residents covered by these companies to move to another facility
  • 70 percent believe a nursing should be allowed to correct errors before being fined
  • And 53 percent oppose changing the law to allow someone with a concealed handgun license to carry a concealed handgun in a nursing home

Warren said his organization will use this new data as they prepare for the start of the 85th Texas Legislature in January. “We’ve got innovative plans to improve the quality of care in Texas nursing homes that won’t cost a penny of the state’s general fund,” Warren said. “This is a crisis that Texas can easily avoid.”