By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY – As our loved ones grow older, it is important to begin searching for the perfect nursing facility to call their new home. The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) wants to help with these efforts. Recently the state health department launched a dashboard to aid residents in making an informed decision on what nursing home to select.
Following reporting requirements set out in legislation and signed by Governor Phil Murphy, the dashboard encourages the Murphy administration to actively engage in increased monitoring of nursing homes to ensure the critical quality of care standards and to provide helpful information for the public’s decisions when selecting a home. Additionally, the site will provide businesses and organizations with state and facility-level information that may aid investments, improvements, and advocacy decisions.
“Choosing a nursing home for a loved one is a deeply personal decision. Providing information on the quality of care and other important factors will give individuals and families the ability to make a well-informed decision, often in trying times,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “We encourage people to review and compare the information.”
There are 356 nursing homes spread throughout the state of New Jersey. According to the 2021 Cost of Care Survey by Genworth, a private room in a nursing home is $297 a day or $9,034 per month. The average cost of these homes is $11,254 for semi-private and $12,151 for private a year.
The New Jersey Office of the State acknowledges that many nursing homes consistently receive the lowest possible rating for their care. And despite these ratings, the New Jersey Medicaid fund continues to provide substantial funds to these homes regardless of their longstanding failure to improve the safety and quality of
their care. If this funding continues without consideration of their low rates, it will expose Medicaid beneficiaries to risks and could result in taxpayer funds being used for a lowly regarded cause. The Medicaid program spends around $1.74 billion annually for long-term care facilities, which comprises about 12 percent of the annual Medicaid budget.
The New Jersey Office of the State made a statement in February 2022 recommending changes to New Jersey’s Medicaid program to require all one-star long-term care facilities to improve their quality of care if they want to remain in the Medicaid program. The recommendations made wish to align Medicaid payments with improved nursing home care. If these low-rated facilities do not improve their quality of care, thus improving their ratings, the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (DMAHS) may bar them from participating in the Medicaid program.
The dashboard, managed by NJDOH’s Office of Long-Term Care Resilience, provides support and resources to improve the quality of care and services for the residents of long-term care facilities. Individuals can find and garner baseline information about each nursing home on the site. The dashboard includes information such as:
● The nursing home’s Five Star Quality Ratings from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
● Survey and inspection information
● Links to certified financial statements and cost reports
● General staffing levels and compliance with staffing ratios
● Names of owners and licensed nursing home administrators
The site is updated with new information when made available. Along with NJDOH data, other sources, including CMS and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network Long-Term Care Facilities Component, contribute to the dashboard’s information.
Along with the dashboard, the Murphy Administration has partnered in this effort by setting measures setting minimum staffing ratios and wage requirements, requiring long-term care facilities to create policies to prevent social isolation among residents, raising Medicaid reimbursement rates at those facilities, improving response coordination, and setting robot data reporting procedures.
The NJDOH also established a Long-Term Care Emergency Operations Center to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) and other materials as needed.
In addition to the new nursing home dashboard, the NJDOH maintains other public-facing dashboards that provide information on the state’s long-term facilities to inform data-driven decisions. Examples include the dashboard on COVID-19 vaccination coverage among residents and staff and a dashboard on covid19.nj.gov that provides updates on COVID-19 outbreaks at facilities.
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