COVID-19 testing needs to be prioritized and expanded to include all assisted living and nursing homes residents and caregivers, personal protective equipment shipments should be expedited to assisted living operators in addition to nursing homes, and an emergency relief fund in excess of $10 billion should be created for long-term care providers, the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living President told federal officials Tuesday.
AHCA / NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson’s comments, made in a letter emailed to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor, echoed similar ones he made last week and on other occasions.
A new letter from 87 members of Congress to Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma makes a similar request.
The federal government announced April 27 that PPE soon would be shipped to every nursing home in the country, but senior living communities were not included in the delivery plans.
“While we don’t want to delay the initial shipments, we urgently request the second seven-day shipment of supplies be delivered by the beginning of June and that the nearly 30,000 assisted living communities also receive badly needed PPE equipment, including N-95 masks,” Parkinson wrote.
Regarding testing, the CEO pointed out that many assisted living and nursing home residents and caregivers could spread the disease by being asymptomatic carriers of the virus. “The only way for our healthcare sector to get ahead of the outbreak of this deadly virus is for priority testing and availability of both collection and testing kits to be expanded to ALL our residents and caregivers, as well as assuring expedited test results,” he said.
Parkinson again proposed that a $10 billion emergency relief fund be set up from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to pay for staffing, testing and PPE needed to fight COVID-19.
“We’re asking for an immediate $10 billion fund for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs),” he said. “Once that is completed, we ask for consideration of an additional fund for assisted living communities.”
Parkinson repeated his often-expressed wish that long-term care providers be financially supported as hospitals have been.
“It is not too late to make an enormous difference in the outcome of the COVID-19 battle in America’s long-term care facilities,” he wrote. “The best public health policy is to focus where the battle is taking place, which is now most prevalent in nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country.”
87 members of House write HHS, CMS
AHCA / NCAL and other industry groups — such as LeadingAge, Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association — that have called for more government assistance for senior living operators have 87 Democratic members of the House of Representatives in their corner. The congresspeople on Monday sent a letter to HHS’ Azar as well as CMS’ Verma “to reiterate our concern about the devastating impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the residents and workers of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and other congregate living settings.”
The lawmakers asked that a portion of the emergency funding appropriated by Congress as part of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act be allocated to states “specifically for the development, purchase, administration, or provision of COVID-19 diagnostic tests for long-term care facilities.”
HHS now has an additional $25 billion for expenses related to COVID-19 testing, they said. “Of that funding, $6.25 billion was further allocated to states, localities, and territories for necessary expenses to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests. We urge you to direct states to prioritize long-term care facilities in any guidance you may offer to them as you distribute this funding,” the House members wrote.
Additionally, they said, states will be submitting their plans for testing to HHS within the next month. “These plans must offer a strategy to surge tests to nursing homes and long-term care facilities as soon as possible,” the congresspeople said. “We ask you to stringently assess whether each state has adequately prioritized ‘senior and other congregate living settings’ within their plan, as recommended by the White House’s Testing Blueprint.”