Flu, falls drove SNF occupancy in early 2016, report shows

Skilled nursing facilities enjoyed increased occupancy rates in the first quarter of 2016, likely spurred by winter-related causes, according to a new report.

Occupancy increased throughout January and February of this year before leveling off at 83.4% in March, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care's 1Q 2016 Skilled Nursing Data report released Tuesday.

“This report shows an increase in occupancy from the December 2015 low, which could be attributed to an increase in volume due to the flu season and other factors attributable to occupancy in the winter months, such as an increase in slips and falls and elective surgeries,” said Bill Kauffman, senior principal at NIC, in a statement

Skilled mix and quality mix increased to 26% and 35.5%, respectively, due to the seasonal boost in occupancy. The overall seasonality effect in early 2016, however, was not as strong as previous years due to a late flu season, NIC explained.

Flu cases in adults 65 and older typically rapidly increase in January and February, according to CDC data. Flu cases in seniors requiring hospitalization also see an uptick during those months. This year's rates quadrupled, from 6.5 cases per 100,000 people at the start of January to 25.6 cases per 100,000 at the end of February.

Despite the occupancy increase, overall occupancy is still down 108 basis points from October 2011, largely due to challenges brought on by declines in length of stay.

Continued pressure from Medicare Advantage plans drove Managed Care rates down 1.2% quarter-over-quarter, for a total decrease of 5.6% year-over-year, Kauffman said. Medicaid rates remained flat quarter-over-quarter but increased a slight 0.44% month-over-month.

Revenue per patient day decreased slightly for all payer sources with the exception of Medicaid, which saw a 0.4% increase to $198 per day at the end of March.