LeadingAge and the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living are working together to try to obtain “legal immunity for providers across the continuum of aging services for all claims that would arise out of actions related to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic,” NBC News reported Monday.

“Long-term care workers and centers are on the frontline of this pandemic response, and it is critical that states provide the necessary liability protection staff and providers need to provide care during this difficult time without fear of reprisal,” AHCA/ NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement.

LeadingAge had sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on March 25 requesting clarification about immunity afforded to assisted living facilities and nursing homes under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act.

“Given the indispensable public-health role of SNFs and ALFs in tackling this pandemic, it is essential that they are afforded the fullest extent of legal immunity available under the law in connection with their efforts in responding to COVID-19, including the immunity provided under the PREP Act,” CEO Katie Smith Sloan wrote.

Cory Kallheim, vice president of legal affairs and social accountability at LeadingAge, told NPR last week that the immunity sought, if granted, would not protect providers in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

State associations are making similar requests of their governors. As McKnight’s Senior Living reported earlier this month, the Florida Health Care Association, an AHCA / NCAL affiliate, and Florida LeadingAge both made requests of Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

“A request for limited immunity from liability for actions taken to mitigate COVID-19 is routine, and many laws already recognize the effectiveness of providing such protections,” LeadingAge Florida said April 13. “Many states, including New York, Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Louisiana, have enacted policies by now to provide immunity from liability for health care activities and professionals to diminish the effects and the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

In LeadingAge Florida’s letter, dated April 10, President Steve Bahmer told DeSantis: “We have the privilege of caring for the needs of many great Floridians in our nursing homes, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and affordable housing communities, and we ask for your help in preserving these businesses, both for the staff and the residents.”

House task force priorities include long-term care, affordable seniors housing

In other coronavirus-related news, long-term care and affordable seniors housing should be among the priorities for future pandemic relief legislation, the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging and Families said Monday.

The group, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and task force members said in a joint statement, “is working to ensure all seniors, their families and their caregivers — no matter who they are or where they live — are guaranteed a comprehensive standard of care and financial security to weather this public health crisis.”

The task force called on the Trump administration to “immediately distribute the $100 million for infection control put aside in the CARES Act and include nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as they distribute the $175 billion put aside in the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.”

The administration also should ensure adequate infection control guidelines, personal protective equipment and testing kits for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, the task force said.

For older adults in general, the task force said the federal government should increase Social Security benefits for the length of the COVID-19 public health emergency and ensure access to the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. Additionally, the government should place a national moratorium on evictions and utility shutoffs for the length of the pandemic.

The group said it is committed to protecting residents and staff members at nursing homes and other congregate living settings, ensuring access to telehealth services, and protecting seniors in need of affordable housing from eviction or foreclosure due to COVID-19-related circumstances.

The task force is led by three co-chairs — Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Conor Lamb (D-PA) — and four vice chairs, Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Ted Deutch (D-FL).