ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Skilled nursing occupancy in the United States remained stable in the fourth quarter of 2019 at 83.8 percent, unchanged from the previous quarter and up from 83.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the latest National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) Skilled Nursing Data Report.
NIC experts say these data points offer a baseline for the first quarter of 2020, when effects of the flu season and COVID-19 outbreak will begin to become visible.
“Skilled nursing occupancy before the COVID-19 outbreak was stable,” says Bill Kaufman, senior principal at NIC. “At the end of last year, the outlook for skilled nursing was healthier than a year ago. While we do not yet know how COVID-19 will impact facility occupancy in 2020, we began the year from a position of relative strength.”
To ensure the safety of residents and staff of skilled nursing facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is restricting visitors and changing the rules for covered facility stays. Patients who remain in the hospital fewer than three days may now receive Medicare-reimbursed skilled nursing care, which will help with facility financial stability.
“In these unprecedented times, it’s critical that the federal government do everything in its power to protect front-line healthcare workers, so they are in the best possible position to treat skilled nursing facility residents,” says Beth Mace, chief economist for NIC. “NIC applauds CMS for these new guidelines that further stabilize the industry and can lessen the impact of the pandemic on older patients and healthcare workers.”