(The Center Square) — As Pennsylvania ages, its services for the elderly contract – a connundrum that, by all accounts, worsens every day.
It’s a significant problem for elderly who choose to stay in the commonwealth, as well as for taxpayers, who pay for their care.
The problem isn’t unique, either: when it comes to nursing homes, federal data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that capacity has declined since 2019. A new report from the Independent Fiscal Office warned that Pennsylvania lost 23 nursing homes since 2019 and the number of beds per 1,000 residents age 75 or older fell by almost 11%.
Fewer workers are around to care for the aging population, too.
Before the pandemic, staff at nursing home and residential care facilities stood at 216,000; by 2023, the number of workers fell by 14% to 186,300.
“Demand for institution-based care continues to outpace supply,” the IFO report noted. “Based on a recent industry survey, the average number of state residents on a nursing home facility waitlist is three,” the IFO report noted.
In March, the Pennsylvania Health Care Association warned that about 2,000 people were on a waitlist for a bed, but staffing shortages were preventing some facilities from accepting anyone.
Failure to transition someone from a hospital to long-term care elsewhere can drive up costs. “It costs roughly ten times more to keep a patient in a hospital than discharge to a long-term care facility,” the report noted.
The older population in Pennsylvania is expanding quicker than other age groups. Another recent IFO report warned that, as the commonwealth ages and the working-age population shrinks, it will require a higher per-capita tax burden on the population to support government services for the elderly.