Proposal Offers Relief to Smith County Nursing Homes
SB 1050 Returns Federal Dollars to Texas, Links Payments to Improving Care
(AUSTIN, Texas) State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) has filed legislation to establish a program that brings Texans’ own federal tax dollars back home to improve the quality of nursing home care in the state. Senate Bill 1050 provides what Hughes calls a “much-needed solution to a funding crisis that is threatening Texas nursing homes and the care they are able to provide.”
And Hughes said it will not add to the state budget.
“This legislation is consistent with our state’s strong, fiscally conservative approach to government,” said Sen. Hughes. “SB 1050 will bring federal funding to Texas—money that is effectively being sent to other states—that will be used to solve staffing and quality issues. It is time that we truly make Texas seniors a priority with this legislation,” Hughes said.
The proposed legislation could provide much needed relief to Smith County’s 15 long term care facilities that have experienced years of underfunding from the state.
The program will draw down federal funding available for Texas to improve nursing home care. The program is similar to programs used by 43 other states and the District of Columbia; however, SB 1050 directs the additional funding received to be specifically committed to improving quality.
Struggling to compete in labor markets across the state, nursing home operators say the underfunding is fueling a workforce crisis, resulting in Texas suffering some of the highest annual staff turnover rates in the country: 97 percent for certified nursing assistants, 90 percent for registered nurses and 90 percent for licensed vocational nurses.
Under SB 1050, nursing homes will receive additional funding for meeting nationally recognized performance standards and for making investments in staff wages and benefits. Funding will also be directed towards modernizing buildings to create comfortable homelike settings, and investing in new technology, all to improve overall resident quality of life.
More than 16 percent of Smith County’s population is over 65, and that number is growing with an approaching silver tsunami of aging baby boomers. The number of Texans over 65 is expected to more than double by 2030, and by 2050, is projected to increase by more than 262 percent.
“At $6 an hour, Texas pays nursing homes less to care for our family members and friends than a teenager makes mowing yards after school,” said Kevin Warren, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association, the largest organization of nursing homes in the state. “With our rate of turnover, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to consistently provide and maintain the level of care our aging Texans deserve.”
Warren points to recent events as evidence of the industry’s struggles. In 2018, Senior Care Centers — the state’s largest operator of nursing homes in Texas — filed for bankruptcy, while one of the largest nursing home operators in the country, departed from Texas last Summer, citing the state’s low reimbursement rate as a reason for its decision.