A legislative move to push skilled nursing facility residents back home reflects a profound misunderstanding of the industry’s population, the head of the American Health Care Association says.

The Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources and Care Act (EMPOWER) reauthorizes the federal “Money Follows the Person” program. The goal of the bill is to give seniors and other certain Medicaid beneficiaries greater ability to stay at home rather than enter a formal care setting.

AHCA supports seniors’ desire to live at home as long as possible, and for the government to provide services when appropriate, said Mark Parkinson, the group’s president and CEO.  But he bristled at the suggestion that there are troves of SNF residents who could easily transition out of institutional settings.

“The view that there are thousands of people who live in nursing facilities that are able to live at home is a myth,” he told McKnight’s this week. “We take care of a very frail population. The average nursing home resident is 82 years old and needs assistance with five activities of daily life. We encourage the all members of Congress to visit a facility and observe both the terrific care that we provide and observe the extremely frail condition of our residents.”

EMPOWER was included as part of the Medicaid Extenders Act of 2019 and was signed into law by President Trump on Jan. 24. That legislation provides full funding for the MFP program and will last for three months. Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) co-sponsored the EMPOWER renewal.