Nursing homes in the United States are finding themselves both overwhelmed and unprepared to accommodate the recent influx in moderate to severely obese patients, whose numbers increased over 10% between the years 2000 and 2010. The inability of nursing homes to accommodate these patients has been attributed, at least in part, to the lack of specialized equipment necessary to care for severely obese patients, such as motorized lifts and larger wheelchairs. Although the Medicaid program covers over 60% of all nursing home residents nationwide, Medicaid does not generally cover the specialized equipment required by obese patients, placing the economic burden of purchasing such equipment on nursing homes without providing reimbursement.
Unfortunately, due to the economic burden of caring for obese patients, some of the nation’s largest nursing home chains, such as Genesis HealthCare, have begun to close bariatric care programs. As a result, hospitals must find alternatives to nursing home care for obese patients who cannot be safely discharged back to the community. Although some experts argue that obese patients may be able to challenge denials of nursing home admission, the issue is “far from settled” and finding new methods of transitioning obese patients from hospital care to community care is poised to become a pressing issue of public concern.