By Steve Moran

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t receive, from someone in or out of the industry, another article touting the horrors of COVID-19. The most recent was from a non-industry friend in May. It was article titled “The Most Important Coronavirus Statistic: 42% of the U.S. Deaths Are From 0.6% of the Population.” The article, of course, goes on to make the point that 0.6% is the number of people living in senior living communities.

It is in many respects a bogus manipulation of numbers — a shock value statement that is stupidly meaningless. We know that almost 100% of the people who died from COVID-19 died at home, in a hospital, or in a senior care community. 

Not-For-Profit versus For-Profit

If I received a dime every time someone claimed that not-for-profit senior living was morally like God in heaven and that for-profit senior living operators were the spawn of Satan, I would be a very rich man. A few days ago we posted a link to a blog article titled “CMS Says More Fines for Nursing Homes – Insane Backward Thinking – Senior Living Foresight”. (The link here takes you to the LinkedIn post and from there you can access the original article.) One of the people commenting on the article included this:

“Corporations that run these nursing homes stand there with hands out for govt reimbursements. Now the hand that feeds them will come back to slap them.”

His apparent belief along with many others is that for-profit companies, their founders, their directors, and their employees have no souls. That all they care about is money. More baffling is the belief that these companies can make more money by treating residents badly than they can by treating them well.

So Many Problems with This

I am not sure I have enough room to list all the things wrong with this line of thinking but here are a few big ones:

  • The premise seems to be that morality and quality are mortal enemies. This is false. Provide great care, make a great profit. Provide poor care and you will fail.
  • Mostly, not-for-profit senior living communities care for wealthier residents, particularly when it comes to nursing homes. They do this because providing skilled nursing care on what the government pays takes a lot of hard work and that means thin margins. This is not meant to be a pot shot, but most not-for-profits could not have the offices they have, the corporate staff they have or the salaries they make if they were providing for a mostly Medicaid population.
  • There have been some COVID-19 disasters in both not-for-profit and government-owned senior living communities.
  • Some of the most inventive amazing solutions to managing the pandemic have come from the for-profit sector even though they are working with much less money.
  • It misdirects the blame for this disaster which lies at the feet of the government and its CMS office.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think every operator is perfect. I think the industry should do more to weed out and call out the bad ones. It might be that we need a more badass certification program that tells the world “these communities are the best of the best.”

Most Importantly

Senior living something that, for most residents and their families, is a “must-have”, not a “nice to have”. We provide a very real, practical solution to a difficult problem. We make lives better, we make the world a better place, and along the way, we provide hundreds of thousands of jobs to people who need them.