Industry experts expect operators to continue experiencing revenue pressures throughout the winter months after skilled nursing occupancy hit and managed Medicare rates hit record lows.

SNF occupancy levels plummeted to 74.2% during the month of November — a drop of 69 basis points from October when rates were 74.9%, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). Overall, occupancy has dropped 11.2% from pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, when it was 85.4%. 

“As the country and the skilled nursing sector navigate through the winter months and vaccine distributions, it is likely that occupancy will continue to face pressure,” NIC Senior Principal Bill Kaufman speculated. 

“Since February 2020, COVID-19 has significantly impacted skilled nursing operations across the country due to high acuity levels of residents, pandemic-related deaths, as well as fewer elective surgeries at hospitals which have resulted in less need for rehab services often provided by nursing care properties,” he added. 

The downward spiral has been an ongoing trend throughout the pandemic. NIC experts warned in December that operators should brace for “a difficult winter” due to no immediate government assistance on the horizon and rising case counts at the time. 

The latest findings from NIC also reported that while Medicare revenue per patient day (RPPD) remained unchanged at $562 between October and November, managed Medicare RPPD hit $452 — the lowest since 2012. 

“Early in the pandemic, managed Medicare RPPD increased but it has resumed the years-long trend of monthly declines. It is down 2.0% since November 2019 and has declined 16% ($86) since January 2012,” Kaufman explained.