December 10, 2020; MarketWatch
There are now enough studies that link the numbers of infections and deaths in nursing homes to the for-profit/nonprofit differential that the AARP has come to name it as a problem. They write:
Seventy percent of nursing homes are for-profit operations, a factor that’s been linked to the spread of COVID-19. An August report commissioned by Connecticut found that for-profit homes in the state had about 60 percent more COVID-19 cases and deaths per licensed bed than nonprofit facilities.
Risks may be even worse at for-profits run by private-equity firms, which acquire nursing homes, cut costs and then sell at a profit. A study by Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund found those nursing homes in New Jersey had a disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths.
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Staffing levels also appear to be a key factor in the virus’s spread. In August, a study in JAMA found that across eight states, facilities with higher levels of nursing staff had fewer COVID cases than those with fewer staff.
Why is this the case? Well, for-profit nursing homes tend to have fewer staff per patient, and some nursing home workers are paid at such a low rate that they must work at multiple facilities to make their households work.
Lori Porter, cofounder of the National Association of Health Care Assistants, says that with an average wage of around $13 an hour, care workers often work at multiple nursing homes to make ends meet, Porter says. Many staffers don’t receive health insurance or paid sick leave, leading some to work even when they were experiencing coronavirus-type symptoms. “What did you think was going to happen?” Porter says.
Profitmaking has no business in this so-called industry. It is nothing less than an abomination that corporate owners of chains are pulling out all of the stops to gain immunity from lawsuits even while they are killing old people with a chronic lack of care. Proposals to limit nursing home ownership to nonprofits have recently been surfacing, and the nonprofit sector must pay attention.—Ruth McCambridge