Trump administration to give additional $5B to nursing homes

The Trump administration will provide nursing homes with $5 billion as they continue to deal with mounting COVID-19 infections, administration officials said Wednesday.

President Trump first made the announcement at the White House, and the official policy will be announced in a forthcoming rule, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said.

The move follows presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s announcement of a $775 billion family caregiver plan that would provide incentives for home and community-based care for the elderly. 

There are no restrictions on how nursing homes can use the funding, but CMS said homes must participate in an online training program focused on infection control and best practices. 

The administration will also require all nursing homes in states with a 5 percent positivity rate or greater must test all nursing home staff each week.

The administration previously recommended, but did not require, that nursing homes test all staff and residents in a two-week period, and then test all staff on a weekly basis. Many providers said testing all staff was too expensive and complicated, and many states ignored the recommendations.

Verma said once a nursing home is COVID-free for two weeks, the administration will recommend visitors can be allowed, so long as they are also tested. 

The testing requirement builds on the administration’s announcement from last week that every nursing home in the country will be receiving rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests. 

During a call with reporters, Verma said more details, including any enforcement mechanisms, will be included in the rule.

More than 37,000 residents of nursing homes have died from the coronavirus, and there have been more than 133,300 confirmed cases in nursing homes across the country, the agency said. Nursing home residents comprise only about 1 percent of the entire U.S. population. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 57,000 residents and staff of all long-term care facilities have died from the virus. 

CMS and the White House will provide a full list of facilities with increasing case counts directly to each state governor’s office each week “to ensure states have the information needed to target their support to the highest risk nursing homes.”

Nursing home advocates and industry groups have been pressing the administration for more help and financial support. On Wednesday, industry trade groups said that the financial impact of the coronavirus on the industry could be up to $57 billion over 12 months.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), the largest nursing home group, applauded the new funding, but called on Congress to target nursing homes and other long term care providers in the next coronavirus relief package. 

LeadingAge, which represents nonprofit aging services providers, said the increased funding “is a good next step,” but said any effort must be backed by a comprehensive national strategy from the White House.

“Rapid, repeat testing is among the most critical tools for nursing homes, which are ground zero for the virus. Nearly half of COVID-19 deaths are nursing home residents and staff. That is why we’ve been shouting for federal support for testing and other life-saving supplies and resources for months,” said Katie Smith Sloan, LeadingAge president and CEO.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Joe Biden nursing homes

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