SOURCE: University of Rochester, news release, July 7, 2015
TUESDAY, July 14, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A bump up in Medicaid payments to nursing homes may be paying off in better care for minority residents, new research suggests.
"This study shows that recent regulatory, financial and market-driven changes have resulted in an improvement not only in homes with higher numbers of minorities, but across the board," lead researcher Yue Li, an associate professor of public health sciences at the University of Rochester, said in a university news release.
Right now, there are about 1.3 million people in some 15,000 nursing homes across the United States, the researchers noted, and nearly 20 percent of them are Hispanic, black or Asian. Nursing homes with high numbers of racial/ethnic minorities tend to have less money, fewer nursing staff and a lower level of care, according to the study.
Li noted that, in the past, "racial and ethnic disparities in quality of care have long been documented in nursing homes."
To see if any headway had been made in closing those gaps, his team looked at data on more than 14,000 U.S. nursing homes between 2006 and 2011.
They found that the number of care-related problems declined in facilities, whether they had low numbers of minority residents (fewer than 5 percent) or high numbers (more than 35 percent).
However, nursing homes with higher numbers of minority residents still tended to have a greater number of problems, according to the study published recently in the journal Health Affairs.
Li's team also examined state Medicaid reimbursement rates. Although it's tough to prove cause-and-effect, they found that an increase of $10 per resident per day was associated with improved care at nursing homes.
In recent years, government policies have aimed to improve the quality of nursing home care nationwide.
"Although none of these policies have focused specifically on racial and ethnic disparities, it appears that these global efforts to improve the quality of nursing home care have effectively narrowed the gap over time," Li said. "These findings also suggest the need to reevaluate quality improvement and cost containment efforts to better foster quality and equity in nursing home care."
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging has more about nursing homes.