PA Senators Call for Additional Ventilator Care Funding During Public Health Crisis

Senators Maria Collett, RN (D-12 Montgomery/Bucks) and Vincent Hughes (D-7 Philadelphia/Montgomery) urged the Governor and their colleagues to include additional funding for nursing homes serving Medicaid patients requiring ventilator and tracheostomy care as part of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Even prior to COVID-19, nursing homes across the Commonwealth have faced a shortage of ventilator beds. Last year, the largest provider of ventilator and tracheostomy care in the state filed for bankruptcy protection due to the chronic underfunding of these services for Medicaid patients.

Currently, only 13 facilities in Pennsylvania treat more than 300 of the state’s 700 patients who require these services, and these facilities are on the decline. As a result, patients are being forced to travel long distances to one of the few remaining nursing homes that specialize in these services, or be forced to receive this care in a hospital setting.

“The majority of ventilator and tracheotomy patients are Medicaid recipients facing an uncertain future as care facilities across Pennsylvania are cancelling or decreasing their services,” said Sen. Collett. “Without additional state funding, many patients will be transferred to more costly hospital facilities that are already strained during this public health crisis.”

While the initiative for additional Medicaid ventilator funding was underway prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the coronavirus outbreak illuminates the concerns consistently identified by providers and advocates.

“It is critical we take the steps necessary to provide nursing homes with the appropriate amount of resources to care for their patients on ventilators,” Senator Hughes said. “We can reduce costs as well as the strain on our health care system, which is critical in battling the coronavirus.”

“For now, we’re here,” said Geni Fisher, vice president at Fox Subacute. “We’re here to take stable ventilator patients out of the hospital so that hospitals can prepare for COVID-19 positive patients requiring this critical respiratory care. Facilities like Fox Subacute that remain dedicated to serving these medically complex individuals have faced significant financial challenges for close to a decade, but that doesn’t absolve us from our mission of caring for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable, especially when there are questions regarding regional capacity to treat the acute health care needs of the broader population during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

Senators Collett and Hughes are sponsors of Senate Bill 959, legislation which dedicates additional Medicaid funding to facilities serving a substantial number of patients who require ventilator and tracheostomy care.