Deputy HHS Secretary Eric D. Hargan

The Department of Health and Human Services will distribute approximately $15 billion in grants to eligible state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program providers, including assisted living operators, the federal agency announced Tuesday.

The funds will come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Provider Relief Fund and are designed to provide relief to Medicaid and CHIP providers who are experiencing lost revenues or increased expenses due to COVID-19, HHS said.

“The first general distribution of the Provider Relief Fund, $50 billion back in April, made payments to over 1 million providers. Approximately 450,000 of these providers care for Medicaid and CHIP recipients,” Eric D. Hargan, deputy HHS secretary, said Tuesday in a call with members of the press. “This distribution we are announcing today will make Provider Relief Funds available to the remaining 275,000 providers that care for Medicaid and CHIP recipients but did not receive funds in the general distribution. These Medicaid and CHIP providers typically operate on thin margins and often include practitioners like dentists, pediatricians, assisted living facilities, and behavioral health providers like opioid treatment programs.”

Payments from the distribution will be determined using data that eligible providers enter into an enhanced Provider Relief Fund portal also announced Tuesday.

“Through the updated portal, all providers will be able to submit their payer mix to inform future distributions to providers who serve a large portion of Medicaid patients or provide a large amount of uncompensated care,” Hargan said.

Payments to each provider will be at least 2% of reported gross revenue from resident/patient care, according to HHS. The final amount each provider receives will be determined after the data are submitted, including information about the number of Medicaid beneficiaries a provider serves.

To be eligible for this funding, providers must not have received payments from the $50 billion Provider Relief Fund general distribution in April and must have directly billed their state Medicaid program or Medicaid managed care plan for healthcare-related services between Jan. 1, 2018, and May 31, 2020.

Forty-eight percent of assisted living communities are Medicaid-certified, and approximately 16.5% of assisted living residents rely on Medicaid to cover their assisted living services, according to the National Center for Assisted Living.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of American Health Care Association / NCAL, said the groups applaud the grant distribution.

“Not only are our residents — seniors and those with underlying conditions — most at-risk if they contract COVID-19, but of these individuals, those who also rely on Medicaid are especially vulnerable due to the program’s notorious underfunding for care,” he said. “These nursing home, assisted living and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities urgently need these resources from the federal government to acquire testing, equipment and staffing to protect their residents.”

More information about eligibility and the application process is available on the HHS website.

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • Shutdowns across the nation may have prevented 60 million coronavirus infections in the United States, according to a study published Monday in Nature.
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, on Tuesday released a white paper with five recommendations to address future pandemics based on lessons learned from COVID-19 and the past 20 years of pandemic planning.
  • The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living have issued guidance about assisted living and skilled nursing facility residents who are eligible for one-time $1,200 economic impact payments.
  • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has ordered that an independent, third-party review be conducted of the preparation efforts and response to the COVID-19 pandemic inside assisted living communities and nursing homes in the state.
  • Pennsylvania has mandated testing for COVID-19 in all 693 nursing homes in the state by July 24, but the order does not apply to the almost 1,200 personal care and assisted living communities in the state, which also have experienced outbreaks.
  • Minnesota has released data on COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, and assisted living communities had 1,243 cases and 259 deaths, the state said. Nursing homes, which house and care for about half as many residents as assisted living communities in the state, reported 2,973 cases and 608 deaths.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health has issued a reference about long-term care infection control and prevention and cohorting. It outlines essential steps to prevent entry of COVID-19, respond to a single case, or react to outcomes of facility-wide testing.
  • Coronavirus is putting some assisted living and other long-term care facilities in a bind about notification when residents who have guardians die of COVID-19.
  • Direct care workers in long-term care need federal support, PHI said in an open letter to Congress.
  • Suicide is a risk for some senior living residents because of the pandemic. A professor and author suggests that assisted living communities and nursing homes provide small-group walks with masks and social distancing, use outdoor places for socially distanced conversation and exercise, and ensure that all residents have digital access to family and friends.
  • A Louisiana assisted living community has come up with a way for residents to visit with their families in person for the first time in three months: through an open window while wearing masks. On the outside, windows are marked with room numbers so family members know which window to visit.