Leaders from 12 of the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacies sent a letter to leaders in Congress on Friday asking for $350 million in financial relief to meet challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition, which represents 75% of the long-term care pharmacy sector, cited significant revenue losses and higher costs due to the pandemic in serving assisted living communities, nursing homes and other communal settings where older adults live.

“Due to the pandemic, LTC pharmacy revenues have dropped 25% while costs increased 6% from March to May,” the letter reads, citing unplanned costs for additional personal protective equipment, employee support and medication supplies, as well as higher delivery expenses. “Without financial relief, residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities may face interruptions in access to essential, life-saving medications.”

The requested $350 million in relief represents 2% of long-term care pharmacy annual patient care revenues of $17.5 billion, which is the benchmark relief percentage the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established for other providers, the organization said. 

SCPC President and CEO Alan Rosenbloom

SCPC President and CEO Alan Rosenbloom said that policymakers have provided $4.9 billion in COVID-19 Medicare relief funds for nursing homes and $15 billion in funds for Medicaid providers, and that HHS is working on relief for assisted living providers, but long-term care pharmacies — which he called the “essential behind-the-scenes partner” — largely have been ignored. 

He also said HHS created new obstacles to relief for LTC pharmacies in June by excluding prescription sales from patient revenues and disproportionately limited relief compared with other provider types.

Long-term care pharmacies “cannot be silent about the outsized impacts the pandemic has had on our sector and our need for immediate relief to fulfill this nation’s promise to our most vulnerable citizens,” the letter said.

About 2 million Americans in long-term care facilities rely on long-term care pharmacies to manage and deliver 12 to 13 different medications daily to each resident, according to SCPC. 

“The financial situation for long-term care pharmacies mirrors the financial situation for nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” Rosenbloom said. “Congress must address this issue promptly to ensure LTC pharmacies have access to the relief they need. The absence of this timely, consistent pharmacy support from LTC pharmacies would make the dire circumstances LTC facilities continue to work through much worse.”

Companies represented on the letter were PharmcareUSA, Guardian Pharmacy Services, PharMerica, NHS Management, Consonus, Forum Extended Care Services, M Chest Institutional Pharmacy Group, HealthDirect Institutional Pharmacy Services, PharmScript, Remedi SeniorCare and PCA Pharmacy.

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • The New York State Department of Health has announced that residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities once again can have visitors. Facilities will be able to resume visitation as long as they are without COVID-19 for at least 28 days. Visits will be limited, and visitors must undergo temperature checks, wear face masks and socially distance. 
  • Tentative plans to conduct more randomized surveillance testing at Hawaii’s elderly care facilities are now on hold because of testing supply shortages and the increasing prevalence of COVID-19 in the community. Only 35% of the state’s 13,000 long-term care beds across all islands are in nursing homes. The rest are in adult residential care homes, assisted living communities and community care foster family homes that might not have the support structure to prevent the transmission of the virus.
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster extended the state’s state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic through July 26. Under the state order, visitation remains restricted at assisted living communities and nursing homes, barring end-of-life situations.
  • South Carolinians without health insurance now can apply to have COVID-19 testing costs reimbursed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The agency announced that tests provided by healthcare providers enrolled in the Healthy Connections Medicaid program are now covered through a new COVID-19 limited benefit program.
  • A Florida woman took a job at a memory care community in Jacksonville, FL, to be closer to her husband, who has Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • The Alliance for Senior Care, a consortium representing more than a third of all long-term and assisted living beds in the Rochester, NY, area, said testing is helping in mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus but that the high cost of test analysis and increased staffing have severe implications for long-term care facilities if financial assistance is not provided. Human and financial resources have been stretched beyond their limits as the state is implementing additional Medicaid cuts and cutting capital reimbursements, according to the consortium.
  • Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden pledged to greatly expand long term services and supports for seniors and people with disabilities, if elected, so they can stay in their homes and communities rather than have to move to nursing homes.