Nursing homes seek profitable rehab patients

Eager to capture better-paying short-term patients, nursing homes have begun aggressively renovating and adding features to make themselves a palatable alternative to hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. They're adding bright colors, Internet cafés, beauty parlors and massage therapists, libraries and more to compete against more traditional short-term rehab players. Most of these patients come in to recuperate and get rehab therapy after knee- and hip-joint procedures, though some also come to recover from heart attacks and strokes. These patients, who are often insured by Medicare, may pay two to three times more per day than the Medicaid patients who make up the bulk of long-term residents. Such strategies are creating major changes in nursing home patient mixes. For example, nursing home operator Manor Care now handles primarily rehab patients. In fact, about half of all patients in the chain's 280 nursing homes stay less than month. Some critics are concerned about this trend, arguing that nursing homes don't achieve the same outcomes that hospitals and rehab facilities achieve, but nursing home groups say that the industry has greatly improved its performance in recent times.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this Associated Press piece