The Affordable Care Act’s provisions encouraging accountable care organizations have incentivized many senior living providers to look for new ways to maximize their post-acute care revenue and increase occupancy. Some assisted living providers have become very active in this endeavor and other senior living providers would be wise to take a look at what these communities are doing to see if it’s something that could work for them as well.
Accountable care organizations are groups of hospitals, post-acute providers, and other healthcare professionals that come together and work as closely as possible for the benefit of their patients. Their goal is to improve patient care, lower hospital readmission rates, and reduce healthcare costs through better coordination between the different health care entities that are involved in the patient’s medical care. Many assisted living providers see opportunities in short-term stays as a way to get involved in accountable care organizations, obtain the government payments that comes with doing so, and increase their occupancy as well. These facilities are beginning to open their doors to short-term patients who do not need the level of care provided by skilled nursing facilities, but do need some short-term assistance, particularly after surgery. For example, the Arbor Company in Georgia has developed a program that tailors to patients with short-term stay needs. The program is called Transitional Living Care (TLC) and it was created to meet the needs of seniors who receive hospital treatment, but don’t qualify for Medicare’s skilled nursing benefits because they haven’t satisfied the “two-midnight” rule.
TLC is a private-pay program that offers stays of 14-30 days. Program charges are per diem and the rates depend on the level of care that the resident is receiving. Shirley Paulk, the Arbor Company’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and one of TLC’s developers is extremely bullish on its prospects and has stated as much with her comments that, “Most readmissions into hospitals are determined to have been due to medication mismanagement, falls, or lack of follow up care. We know those are three areas we excel in. We have an environment geared more toward safety than [a private residence.]” The Arbor Company also offers on-site therapy sessions at all of its communities, coordinates with home health and therapy providers, and works with discharge planners to smooth the transition for patients who are leaving a TLC program to return home. While the program’s revenues are sometimes offset by the cost of moving someone in, the Arbor Company is still very happy with it because of the leads it generates and the marketing opportunities it provides.
The Arbor Company is just one of many operators that have been incentivized by the Affordable Care Act to seek out new ways of generating revenue and increasing occupancy that could also result in better patient care and reduced healthcare costs. This is exactly what Congress intended when it added accountable care organization provisions into the law and so far, these provisions appear to be having the desired effect. Other senior living providers would be wise to follow the Arbor Company’s lead and experiment with new programs that could benefit them as well. In addition to doing this, senior living participants should also continue to take advantage of the current low interest rate environment and look to the financing firm Cambridge Realty Capital for assistance in obtaining inexpensive capital to develop these programs, acquire senior housing assets, or for any other needs that they have.