SNFs Expected to Recover from Pandemic Struggles: Summary of 2021 Medicare Report to Congress

June 10, 2021
Policy Snapshot

Each year in March, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) reports to Congress on fee-for-service payment, Medicare Part D, and the Medicare Advantage program (Medicare Part C). The 2021 MedPAC Report discusses consequences of the pandemic on budgets, payment evaluations and recommendations for post-acute and long-term care services, reviews of Medicare Parts C and D, as well as post-pandemic coverage of telehealth.

The impact that COVID has had on skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents and staff is detailed in the report. The report notes that facilities across the nation did not have adequate access to PPE or COVID tests and closed their doors to the public. The federal government responded by directly sending supplies to facilities, but 10% of facilities did not have a week’s supply of PPE by the end of 2020. The report shows that long periods of isolation and stagnation were detrimental to the mental and physical well-being of many residents. Nursing homes reported 441,473 confirmed COVID cases and 86,775 deaths from May to December of 2020. Meanwhile, employees had to deal with poor work conditions that facilities were not prepared to deal with.

According to the report in 2020, there were 15,127 SNFs that participated in the Medicare program. In 2020, when compared to the same time in 2019, there were fewer SNF closures. A mixture of federal grants, loans, and temporary changes to policies have benefited SNFs; Medicare projects for the industry will recover with variations among providers and markets. However, the long-term effects of pandemic patterns of volume, care, and finances are unknown. The recommendation made for SNFs is that the 2021 update to Medicare base payment rates should be eliminated by Congress for 2022. The rationale provided is that Medicare payments and the aggregate Medicare margin is expected to be adequate to support SNFs and beneficiaries.

Click on this link to read the report.