Massachusetts proposes $35.5 million boost for SNF worker pay, hires 19 new facility inspectors

Massachusetts lawmakers made moves this week to help increase wages and benefits for workers, as well as increasing oversight, in the states' 400-plus skilled nursing facilities.

A proposed budget plan, released Wednesday from the state House of Representatives, advises that “not less than $35.5 million” be diverted for “wages, benefits and related employee costs of direct care staff.” The new budget plan one-ups Gov. Charlie Baker's (R)  January proposal that pledged money to nursing homes, but included no language specifying that the funds had to go to front-line workers.

That $35.5 million boost falls significantly short of the $90 million requested by the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, the state's nursing home trade group, for its “Quality Jobs for Quality Care” plan. The group's leaders told lawmakers the new budget proposal is “an important step in the right direction,” the Boston Globe reported.

Massachusetts' public health commissioner took steps of her own on Wednesday in her plan to overhaul the state's nursing home oversight by hiring 19 new nursing home inspectors to fill vacancies in the health department. Monica Bharel, M.D., MPH, noted that the department is pursuing 10 additional inspectors to fill empty positions, as well as seven additional program support staffers.

The newly-added inspectors will help the agency address the 1,768 consumer complaints and 9,947 reports filed by operators about issues in their facilities last year, according to Globe reports.

Bharel's hiring spree follows calls for more transparency in the Massachusetts nursing home industry, as well as reports on some of the state's more troubled facilities and operators.