Home Nurse Facilities HHS releases $4.9 billion in COVID-19 relief for skilled nursing facilities

HHS releases $4.9 billion in COVID-19 relief for skilled nursing facilities

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The federal government on Friday announced the distribution of nearly $4.9 billion in COVID-19 relief funds directly to skilled nursing facilities, the first industry-specific tranche of stimulus funds released since the start of the pandemic. pandemic.

Each skilled nursing facility nationwide will receive a base payment of $50,000, plus an additional $2,500 per bed, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced. The money, which is part of the CARES Act stimulus package, will be available to all facilities with six or more certified beds.

“This funding secured by President Trump will help nursing homes keep the seniors in their care safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “The Trump administration is providing every resource it can, from funding and direct shipments of PPE to regulatory flexibility and infection control consultations, to protect seniors in nursing homes and those who care for them. .”

As with other CARES Act funding rounds, vendors must agree to certain terms and conditions in order to accept the money and must comply with future auditing and reporting rules, according to HHS.

Friday’s distribution marks the first aid dedicated to nursing homes, which have served as the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) previously released $50 billion in assistance to all Medicare providers, though that category leaves out the sizable proportion of nursing homes that rely on Medicare funding. Medicaid as main source of income.

While the government has, as Azar noted, announced a plan to deliver PPE to care homes, the aid came in the form of two weeks of supplies split over two deliveries – with a delivery date of 4 July at the latest.

HHS has recognized the financial stress faced by retirement home operators while battling COVID-19.

“Since the start of 2020, SNFs have experienced a decline of up to 6% in their patient population as current and potential residents choose alternate care settings or as current residents pass away. In addition to nursing home residents, many SNF employees have also been diagnosed with COVID-19,” the agency observed. “These additional funds can help nursing homes meet critical needs such as manpower, increasing their testing capacity, acquiring personal protective equipment and a range of others. expenses directly related to this pandemic.”

The terms and conditions that providers must agree to are broadly similar to those required under previous Medicare relief cycles, with a few key differences. Operators don’t need to have billed Medicare for services in 2019 to receive the funds, according to Hedy Silver Rubinger, partner of Arnall Golden Gregory, president of the company’s healthcare practice; nor do they have to provide the government with information on 2018 operating expenses.

Providers have always been required to provide HHS with a quarterly accounting of how they spend their relief money if that figure exceeds $150,000, but qualified nurse relief requirements now include funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. pays (PPP) toward that threshold — a move that indicates HHS is warning against “double dipping,” Rubinger said.

Industry leaders have pleaded with the government to earmark funds specifically for post-acute and long-term care providers, though Friday’s total was less than the $10 billion the American Health Care Association (AHCA) asked repeatedly.

AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson thanked HHS for the $4.9 billion injection on Friday morning, though he also noted that the cycle omitted other types of providers. long-term care.

“Notably, assisted living communities have yet to receive any direct assistance, although they also serve vulnerable seniors,” Parkinson said in a statement. “While building on the support received from HHS, we ask for additional consideration for all long-term care facilities, whether it’s for additional testing, personal protective equipment, or funding.”

Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of non-profit industry group LeadingAge, echoed Parkinson’s sentiment, welcoming the support but stressing that more will be needed.

“These funds are a start to cover extraordinary nursing home expenses related to this public health crisis, but will go no further to meet the growing financial needs of providers as this pandemic continues,” said Sloan in a statement.

Nursing homes have faced high staffing, PPE and testing costs since the start of the pandemic, a factor that has been compounded by a drop in the number of post-acute patients in the amid a general pause on elective surgeries.

These costs are only expected to increase as state and regional economies gradually reopen. CMS’s plan to lift nursing home visitation bans calls for one-time basic testing for all nursing home residents and staff, which the AHCA says would cost $440 million.

Adhering to CMS guidelines to test all staff members once a week, AHCA says, will cost $1 billion a month, and states can also implement their own guidelines that would only add to that cost. ; New York, for example, has imposed twice-weekly testing on staff members.

This is a developing story. Please check for updates.