Money woes mount for local nursing homes as they spend big bucks on COVID-19 testing

WWNY Money woes mount for local nursing homes as they spend big bucks on COVID-19 testing

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. (WWNY) - The money problems of north country nursing homes are starting to pile up, especially now that they have to test their employees twice a week.

There's still plenty of love and care at nursing homes, but some are wondering for how long. The COVID-19 pandemic is stretching nursing home finances to the limit.

“It's been a struggle financially and COVID-19 just kind of laid all those issues bare,” said Steve Knight, United Helpers CEO.

United Helpers estimates it will cost $60,000 every week to test hundreds of employees at their two nursing homes. It's a mandate from Governor Andrew Cuomo. State legislators say they're aware of the problem.

“Now with this new mandate, the testing, and no funding to back it up – I don't know how they can possibly take on this expense,” said Senator Patty Ritchie (R. - 48th District).

Ritchie wants the state to pick up the tab.

On Wednesday, there was another hit. It was announced nursing homes' Medicaid reimbursements will be cut 1.5 percent.

“That was a real concern at budget time already, right when the pandemic was just starting to hit,” said Ritchie.

On top of that, Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes have not been adjusted for price inflation in New York since 2008.

“This has been a long-time coming. This is not something new," said Knight. "And it needs to be fixed.”

Ritchie said her Republican caucus is talking about getting the state to pay for the tests.

Nursing homes in St. Lawrence County have so far escaped the devastation experienced by some others in the state. And everyone there is hoping that remains the case.

United Helpers will conduct nearly 900 COVID-19 tests on employees at its nursing homes this week, and repeat next week, and in the weeks after that. Every week, it costs $60,000.

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