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 Occupancy Ticks Higher in Fourth Quarter, Shows Relative Strength Before COVID-19 Outbreak

Occupancy levels for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) ticked slightly higher in the fourth quarter of 2019 at 83.8 percent, up from 83.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) and its latest Skilled Nursing Data Report.

The fourth quarter numbers will offer a baseline for the first quarter of 2020, when the impact of the traditional flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic begin to become visible, NIC said.

“Skilled nursing occupancy before the COVID-19 outbreak was stable,” said 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, the report said.

“In these unprecedented times, it’s critical that the federal government do everything in its power to protect frontline health care workers, so they are in the best possible position to treat skilled nursing facility residents,” said Beth Mace, chief economist for NIC.

Medicare revenue per patient day rose 4.6 percent in the fourth quarter, ending the year at $544. This increase was expected due to the new Patient Driven Payment Model (PDPM), which took effect on Oct. 1, 2019. The model reimburses skilled nursing facilities based on the medical complexity of patients rather than the pre-PDPM model based on volume of services provided.

Read the full Skilled Nursing Report at nic.org/skilled-nursing

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