Although members of the Senate and House of Representatives may return to the nation’s capital later this week — back from their state and district work periods several weeks earlier than expected — to look into concerns related to the U.S. Postal Service, it remains uncertain when negotiations around the next coronavirus-related relief bill will resume in full force.
For months now, industry associations have been making the case for senior living operators to be included in a federal package.
The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, LeadingAge, Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association, among other organizations, have been writing members of Congress, the president and vice president. They’ve been releasing estimates of costs senior living providers will incur overall and for testing of residents and staff. They’ve come together to organize the collection of senior living data to ease distribution determinations by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They’ve held press conferences and appeared on national television news programs to make their case. And in addition to these and other public efforts, they’ve been working behind the scenes, as always.
Increasingly, their messages are being heard, and other voices are joining their pleas.
In a July 31 blog in The Hill, for instance, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, called on the Department of Health and Human Services to place senior living communities on the same playing field as nursing homes in the prioritization of resources to fight COVID-19.
“The administration did a good job of prioritizing nursing homes early on in the pandemic so that they could get the personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies they needed. But many of our elderly don’t live in nursing homes; they live in senior living facilities. …They should have the same access to rapid results testing kits and supplies of PPE and funding as nursing homes,” Granger wrote.
And Granger’s voice was joined last week by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), a member of the Finance and Appropriations committees in the Senate.
Daines sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday urging that senior living providers be included in a future allocation from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.
“While they often care for similar populations as nursing homes, with more than half of all residents over the age of 85 and often suffering comorbidities, these communities that are not primarily supported by Medicaid funds have by and large not received financial relief as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. …The healthcare heroes in these communities are on the front lines of this crisis, and while they continue to do everything they can to care for our nation’s seniors and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, they need financial relief,” Daines wrote.
These messages from members of Congress are especially significant because they mention senior living specifically and don’t refer to communities vaguely as “other long-term care facilities” or lump senior living’s needs in with those of skilled nursing.
Those in the industry will keep pressing the message to the federal executive and legislative branches and others. Let’s hope others hear and act on that message — soon.