Nursing Homes Seek Health Care Law Exemption

Many nursing home employees who provide critical care for our nation's seniors lack adequate, affordable health care of their own. According to recent estimates, one in four nursing home employees do not have health care coverage.

The new health care law is supposed to fix the problem. Beginning in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act will require that all employers who have 50 or more full-time employees offer affordable health care coverage or risk paying a penalty.

A New York Times cover story sheds light on an intense lobbying effort by nursing home and home care agency executives who are seeking an exemption from the law. They argue that their facilities heavily depend on Medicare and Medicaid for revenue, but the programs' low reimbursement rates make it difficult to provide health insurance to employees. When nursing homes do offer health insurance, the benefits are often limited and employees cannot afford to pay for it.

The cost of providing additional health care insurance to caregivers may fall on the families of nursing home residents. Americans already pay at least $17,000 more per year for nursing home care than they did in 2005. Even more charges could be expected.

But ensuring that nursing home employees have access to affordable coverage may be well worth the additional cost. Nursing home injuries are common, especially for employees who lift patients and help them get out of bed. Employees who lack health insurance are less likely to seek treatment for on-the-job injuries. They are also less likely to seek treatment for contagious illnesses that could jeopardize the safety of the residents that they care for

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