Doctor and senior woman wearing facemasks during coronavirus and flu outbreak. Virus protection. COVID-2019..

Financial relief from the government and liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits won’t be enough to fix long-standing flaws in the long-term services and supports system, a leading expert cautioned. 

“That is not to say that long-term care facilities don’t need help. Or that states don’t need more short-term assistance to provide Medicaid long-term services and supports,” Forbes columnist Howard Gleckman explained Thursday.

“But this passing support would leave our broken system of care effectively unchanged. It would paper over the structural flaws for a few months, or perhaps a year. But we’d be left with the same problem: The US spends massive amounts of money to provide the wrong care for older adults in the wrong place. And seniors and their families are worse off for it,” he wrote. 

The federal government has so far pledged about $10 billion to skilled nursing providers to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Industry stakeholders have also called on Congress to dedicate an additional $100 billion to the Provider Relief Fund — a dedicated fund for healthcare providers impacted by COVID-19.

While the support will help in the immediate future, Gleckman explained that the industry will still be plagued by higher costs and worker shortages thanks to the pandemic. Looking further ahead, he added that occupancy won’t return to pre-COVID levels and financial relief won’t encourage needed reform measures. 

In this case, poorly designed assistance will only discourage operators from making needed changes in staffing, care protocols, and design. That, in turn, will drive away more consumers and likely result in more regulation,” Gleckman said. He added that resident advocate groups are also “aiming far too low.” 

“These advocates for providers and consumers should know better. Short-term fixes will do nothing to repair the nation’s shattered system of caring for those with long-term care needs,” he concluded.