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Occupancy at U.S. Skilled Nursing Facilities Hits New Low

December data reported from the NIC MAP® Data Service show pandemic’s continued pressure on the sector

Occupancy at U.S. skilled nursing facilities in December 2020 reached its lowest level since data have been collected, ending the year at 71.7 percent, according to a NIC MAP® Data Service (NIC MAP) report, provided by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). Occupancy declined 13.3 percentage points since February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

NIC experts acknowledge that skilled nursing occupancy has been hit hard by COVID-19. However, the latest data does not account for recent efforts to vaccinate skilled nursing patients and frontline healthcare workers, who are at greater risk than the general population of contracting COVID-19.

“New COVID-19 cases and mortalities are dropping steadily due to the vaccine’s reach and effectiveness in skilled nursing settings,” said Beth Burnham Mace, NIC’s chief economist. “As vaccination rates rise, occupancy rates are likely to increase in the coming months.”

According to NIC’s Skilled Nursing COVID-19 Tracker, from December 20 to February 14, new weekly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in skilled nursing facilities fell 89 percent, while new cases nationwide fell 59 percent over the same period.

Even with vaccinations beginning to bring the crisis in skilled nursing facilities to an end, NIC experts are uncertain if all facilities will be able to sustain their financial wellbeing without the sustained support of the federal government.

“Federal government support was essential last year for many skilled nursing facilities to continue to serve patients,” said Bill Kauffman, senior principal at NIC. “Whether all skilled nursing facilities can remain financially sustainable going forward will depend in part on additional governmental support as part of COVID relief and how quickly the bounce back in occupancy will occur.”

NIC MAP data shows the share from Medicare revenue increasing, which NIC experts say results from a federal rule change shifting Medicaid patients into Medicare during the COVID-19 emergency. The share of Medicare revenue increased between November to December to 23.3 percent, while the share of Medicaid revenue hit a new low, ending the year at 43.7 percent. It decreased 8.4 percentage points since March, when it was 52.2 percent.



Note: Click here to access the latest skilled nursing data, featured within a NIC MAP ® Data Service monthly report, which will be updated at 4:30 p.m. EST.

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