According to statements made to Texas lawmakers by patients and advocates, there are nurses who are quitting their jobs at Texas nursing homes to go make more money working at McDonald’s.
Representatives from different advocacy groups warn the shrinking staff sizes are setting the state up for a nursing-shortage.
“You can start of at McDonald’s at $13 of $14 dollars an hour,” Scot Kibbe said. He sees the signs on his way into work. 
“It’s hard when there are so many much easier jobs that pay better… It’s hard to keep making that decision to go back.”
The Director of Government Relations for The Texas Health Care Association, Kibbe, said long-term care facilities continue to be underfunded and nurses continue to leave to find a better paying job. 
Kibbe said the impact is felt across the board.
“Registered Nurses, Licensed Vocational Nurses, Certified Nurse Assistants, it’s hard to pay them competitive wages.”
Texas has one of the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates in the country, which is one of the reasons some nursing homes are struggling to compete with the pay offered at fast food restaurants.
“You’re losing money on over two-thirds of your patients,” Kibbe said.
Roughly 85 percent of Texans living in nursing homes depend on Medicaid or Medicare, and Kibbe said the each Medicaid patient is underfunded by 14 percent.
That adds up to a $300 million shortfall and nursing homes have to pick up the difference.
“It’s a very difficult situation and that’s something that’s going to be even more of a problem for Texas with the aging of our state,” said Kibbe.
The oldest baby boomers are about 70 and the state’s Health and Human Services expects the aging population will start to drive up demand for long-term care toward the end of this decade.
“We have to prepare for that,” Kibbe said, “We need to be building up the workforce.”
He cited a study that estimated the number of people over the age of 85 living in Texas will quadruple by 2050.
“We have reached a crisis,” said Renee Lopez. It’s becoming more and more difficult to get the at-home care she relies on.
“You can make more money flipping hamburgers than you can helping another person,” Lopez said, and she understands why the turnover rate is so high.
The pay is especially low for Certified Nurse Assistants and attendants who offer at-home care. According to Lopez, her attendant makes $8 an hour she only requires one to two hours of assistance a day.
 “I think that’s a real shame because it means the people with disabilities in our community aren’t considered to be as important as getting a hamburger,” Lopez said.
She was diagnosed with a Lopez was diagnosed with a disease that impacts her joints at birth. She was able to walk, assisted by braces on her legs. Then she fell and broke her hip.
That was six years ago and she’s been in a wheelchair and relied on at-home care ever since. 
“We’re all just a day away from becoming disabled, it could happen to anybody at any time,” Lopez said.
Kibbe said the state needs to increase funding to raise the reimbursement rate to make sure long-term care services are available when needed. There is a sense of urgency with demand expected to spike when the state’s aging population of baby boomers.
“If you’re lucky enough to live that long you’ll become elderly and you’ll need help then because the body does wear out,” Lopez said.
She and Kibbe emphasized this is an issue that will impact most families in Texas.