Not-for-profit long-term care providers are providing more hours of care per patient day, investing more resources in resident care and averaging significantly fewer deficiencies than for-profit providers, government statistics indicate.

It's a decision that will face millions of Americans in the not-too-distant future. It's estimated that by 2020, nearly 12 million older Americans will need long-term health care.

Higher quality care is often directly associated with the amount of time nursing professionals spend with residents, and data from the federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) indicates that nurses at non-profit residential facilities are spending significantly more time caring for residents that those at for-profit facilities.

For registered nurses (RN), HCFA reports that the average hours of care per resident day were more than twice as high at not-for-profit nursing homes than at for-profits. In addition, licensed practical nurse (LPN) hours were 21 percent higher on average at non-profit homes and certified nurse aide (CNA) hours were approximately 18 percent higher.

Data also show that non-for-profit long-term care facilities invest more resources in direct and indirect resident care than for-profit facilities. According to HCFA, in the year 2000, not-for-profit providers spent 11 percent more than their for-profit counterparts on direct daily care per resident.

Direct care expenditures include any costs directly associated with patient care, such as nursing costs. Non-profit facilities also spent 18 percent more on indirect care expenditures, such as housekeeping, laundry service, cafeteria service and social services. With no shareholders to pay, not-for-profit providers also enjoy the added benefit of utilizing their funds to better the facility and staff and improve the quality of care and services for their residents.

Deficiencies are yet another area where not-for-profit long-term care providers stand out from their for-profit counterparts. When inspected for compliance with the governments survey and certification standards, not-for-profit nursing homes have consistently shown fewer deficiencies than for-profit homes.

In 1999, HCFA statistics indicated that not-for-profit providers had nearly 34 percent fewer deficiencies, demonstrating their success at meeting government standards.

Brooking Park Retirement Community in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Mo., is a prime example of a not-for-profit long-term care provider that is going above and beyond to meet and exceed government standards. For the past two years in a row, Brooking Park has remained deficiency-free.