Occupancy continues to be a “pain point” for skilled nursing operators during the new year, according to the latest insights from CliftonLarsonAllen

A new report by the advisory and consulting firm revealed that national median occupancy was about 69% at the start of 2021. That’s a steep drop from the start of 2020, when the figure was 85%.

CLA also noted that no state has reported a median occupancy of 80% or higher to start the year; the last state to do was Maine during the last reporting week of December. 

The firm noted that COVID-19 relief funding and programs have helped operators weather the storm from a cash-flow perspective, but the reserves are quickly running out and providers could be faced with a tougher financial position. 

“Getting back to pre-COVID occupancy levels is a significant concern for operators,” the analysis explained. “Given historically low margins, post-COVID occupancy at even 90% to 95% of pre-COVID levels will push most operators into a negative margin situation.” 

A vast majority of providers (82%) said in a McKnight’s Flash Survey in December that “rebuilding or keeping enough census” was one of their top four fears heading into 2021. Only “having enough staff” (at 88%) was a more frequent choice.

CLA in July reported that operators fear it could be 18 months before occupancy can recover to pre-COVID levels.