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Dem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments

Dem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments
© Greg Nash

Two House Democratic committee chairmen are urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue guidance aimed at preventing nursing homes and assisted living facilities from seizing their residents' coronavirus relief payments.

"It is crucial that this vulnerable population group continues to have the certainty that comes with these [economic impact payments] and are not coerced into wrongly handing over their checks for fear of being kicked out of their homes," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHoyer releases 2021 House calendar A need for reauthorization of the Elder Justice Act Biden names Janet Yellen as his Treasury nominee MORE (D-Mass.) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine MORE (D-N.J.) wrote in a letter Monday to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Legislation President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE signed in late March provides for one-time direct payments to most Americans of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under 17.

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Neal and Pallone noted in their letter that the payments are considered advanced payments of tax credits and can't be counted as "income" or "resources" for Medicaid purposes.

However, the Federal Trade Commission said last month that it has been hearing that some nursing homes and assisted living facilities are claiming that they are entitled to the payments of residents who are on Medicaid, demanding those residents sign over their payments to the facility.

Neal and Pallone noted in their letter that residents of long-term care facilities make up a significant portion of COVID-19 deaths. They said that they think CMS "has a role to play in ensuring consumers and facilities are informed of their rights and obligations, and that facilities comply with the law."

The chairmen asked CMS to issue guidance "on the status of these checks and their independence from residents’ Medicaid status." They said that the guidance should make compliance with the protections against the checks from being seized a condition for facilities to receive any money from a relief fund for health care providers.

Neal and Pallone also asked CMS to provide them with information about when the agency first became aware of issues relating to the coronavirus payments of nursing home residents, and what actions it plans to take to ensure that facilities don't seize the payments and return those that have already been seized. 

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Additionally, Neal and Pallone wrote a letter to the American Health Care Association, which represents long-term care providers, urging it to give its members "clear guidance" to ensure that coronavirus payments remain the sole possession of the residents who receive them.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living said in a statement that they are not aware of widespread issues with residents' relief payments.

“Stimulus checks are handled in the same manner as other resident benefit payments," the groups said. "Any stimulus payments to long-term care residents will be managed in the same way their current benefit funds are deposited and managed. That will vary from person to person based on their individual preferences and circumstances."