Workers’ union walkout at Weinberg Campus in New York this week found an unusual ally: the nonprofit senior health community’s chief executive officer.

Weinberg CEO Robert Mayer joined with roughly a score of workers organized by labor union 1199SEIU to rally for a 20% increase to Medicaid rates for the state’s nursing homes. New York has not raised rates in more than a decade, and several speakers during the rally noted that lawmakers cut Medicaid by 1% during the pandemic. 

“It’s essential that we receive this increase in order to make sure that these people are paid an appropriate wage, and we can give them the benefits and wages they deserve,” Mayer said, adding that lawmakers have indicated in meetings they support the 20% increase yet put forth a budget with a 10% hike. 

That is better than the 5% jump that Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) offered in her budget proposal. 

“That’s not going to be enough to make sure that nursing homes in New York state are sustainable,” Mayer said. “It’s absolutely terrible that seniors in New York who deserve the best care possible aren’t able to access those services because the Medicaid rates are not enough.”

The state’s lawmakers missed the April 1 deadline to pass the budget and are continuing their negotiations, giving hope to advocacy groups that want to see the Medicaid reimbursement increased beyond what has been proposed. A survey from Hart Research released April 18 found that 79% of New Yorkers want at least a portion of the state’s $8.7 billion budget surplus to increase funding for healthcare. Seventy-seven percent of voters want higher Medicaid rates to cover a larger share of the costs of care at nursing homes and other health facilities. 

On Tuesday, the New York CPA firm Bonadio & Co. LLP, released a letter it sent to the head of the state’s Providers Alliance, an organization representing upstate SNF, that found the combined losses in 2022 for 73 upstate facilities is a “staggering” $160 million. The firm said the average loss per facility was $2.2 million and the median loss per bed was just under $10,000.

“Overall, the financial results are quite staggering with losses exceeding anything that I’ve experienced in my 40-year career of working in the nursing home industry,” Nasso wrote in the letter provided to McKnights Long-Term Care News. “It’s not unusual for the industry to experience downturns, but the depth and breadth of losses are simply not sustainable.”

In addition to investing $2.5 billion into raising rates for nursing homes, union 1199SEIU wants lawmakers to address the disparity in reimbursement rates in upstate New York, which are approximately 20% lower than downstate, according to a press release from the union. 

Last month, McKnight’s reported on a legislative forum hosted by the union during which participants discussed the average $299 per day per Medicaid resident received by downstate nursing homes. That compares to an average $242 per day for facilities in the Hudson Valley and $214 per day sent to SNFs in upstate and the western part of New York. 

Mayer participated in that forum and noted that he’s “usually a very optimistic person” but he was struggling to see a path forward for the 180 long-term care beds at Weinberg without “some major increases” in Medicaid rates.