Skilled nursing occupancy levels dropped 132 basis points to 83.4% during the month of March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — the lowest since 2012, according to new data released by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).

The decrease was the result of more resident transfers from facilities to hospitals and fewer admissions from post-acute elective surgeries, NIC Senior Principal Bill Kauffman wrote. Data also revealed that occupancy slipped 134 basis points when compared to March 2019. 

NIC plans to release findings from its Skilled Nursing Data Initiative on a monthly basis in response to the rapid market changes caused by the pandemic. 

A snapshot released in late May revealed that occupancy for nursing care facilities fell 2.2 percentage points to 84.7% in April, the first full month of the pandemic. Kauffman noted that future data likely will show larger impacts on occupancy for the month of April when the pandemic was “significantly more pervasive.” 

Skilled mix decreased 59 basis points from February to March due to pressure on Medicare and managed Medicare, the latest findings also revealed. There was also a drop in both Medicare and managed Medicare of 18 basis points and 46 basis points, respectively, during the same period. 

“These declines suggest the pressure on new post-acute admissions began in the month of March as COVID-19 started to impact skilled nursing properties,” Kauffman explained. 

The report added that managed Medicare revenue mix slipped 76 basis points in March due to the pandemic’s impact on admissions, while Medicaid patient mix increased 66 basis points from February to March. 

“Medicare and managed Medicare stays were likely down due to the numerous measures implemented to contain COVID-19. This is notable and suggests that the occupancy decrease from February to March was mainly, if not all, due to the decreases in post-acute admissions,” Kauffman wrote.