State Residential Care and Assisted Living Policy: 2004. Nursing Home Level of Care Issues

03/31/2005

States typically have two or more levels of nursing home care and not all persons served in nursing homes may be served in residential care. States distinguish among levels of care primarily for payment purposes. As noted in the discussion of admission and retention policies, above, states typically do not allow facilities to serve persons who require a skilled level of nursing care (as opposed to discrete skilled services, which many states allow in residential care on a limited basis). Only a few states do not allow facilities to serve persons who do not meet the minimum or threshold nursing home level of care criteria.

Generally, it is individuals who meet a state's minimum level of care criteria who can be and are served in residential care settings and states' minimum nursing home criteria vary markedly. Individuals who meet the nursing home criteria in one state may not meet the criteria in another state. Thus, the statement that most states permit residential care settings to serve individuals who are "nursing home eligible" obscures sometimes significant differences in the type and level of care provided in these facilities in different states.

States fall on a continuum from low to high thresholds for nursing home admission. Some states require a person to need assistance with only two ADLs, while others may require that a person be totally dependent in three or more ADLs. Some states require individuals to have a combination of medical conditions/needs and functional limitations; others require only certain medical needs. Of the 45 states whose criteria were reviewed for this study, two used medical criteria only; 13 used medical and functional needs; eight used an assessment score based on a combination of medical and functional needs; and 22 used ADL thresholds. 3 provides information about each state's nursing home level-of-care criteria.13 A few examples of states' criteria follow.

  • Medical. Alabama requires an individual to need daily nursing or medical services that as a practical matter can only be provided in a nursing facility on an in-patient basis.

  • Medical and/or functional. Maine requires individuals to need skilled care on a daily basis (nursing or rehabilitation therapies); or extensive assistance with three of the following ADLs (bed mobility, transfer, locomotion, eating, and toileting); or one of several specified combinations of nursing and functional needs.

  • ADL Threshold. New Hampshire requires individuals to either need assistance with two or more ADLs, or to need 24-hour care for at least one of the following: medical monitoring and nursing care; restorative nursing or rehabilitative care; or medication administration.

  • Combination of Factors. Illinois requires individuals to have a specific score on a standardized assessment. The score is derived using a score on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), and impairments in six ADLs and nine instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) (including ability to perform routine health and special health tasks, and ability to recognize and respond to danger when left alone).

Because Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) gives states considerable flexibility in setting minimum nursing home level of care criteria, states may choose to make this criteria more stringent in response to budget deficits, as Oregon has recently done. In states that cover Medicaid waiver services in residential care settings, increasing the threshold level of care criteria for nursing homes will also increase the threshold for residential care. For example if a state raises its threshold criteria from 2 out of 5 ADL impairments to 3 out of 5 ADL impairments, a person in the former category will no longer be eligible for Medicaid coverage in both nursing homes and residential care settings.

If a state markedly increases the stringency of its minimum nursing home level of care criteria to control nursing home admissions, it would need to ensure that admission and retention criteria for residential care settings allow these settings to continue serving Medicaid waiver clients with the higher level of need required for Medicaid nursing home admission.

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