COVID-19 Updates

CMS Issues Blanket Waivers For Long-Term Care and COVID-19 Updates


CMS Issues Blanket Waivers For Long-Term Care Providers Effective Through End Of Emergency Declaration

Provider Magazine (5/4, Connole, 151K) reports that “as part of a series of announcements, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued several new blanket waivers for long term care providers, according to the latest update from the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) on COVID-19 rules and regulations.” Among the blanket waivers “in effect, with a retroactive effective date of March 1, 2020, through the end of the emergency declaration,” are modifications to “certain QAPI program requirements,” in-service training requirement modification, waiving of certain discharge planning requirements, modification of the requirement to provide clinical records copies within 2 working days, and waiver of certain physical environment requirements. In addition, “CMS updated some language to blanket waivers that were previously issued at the end of March, AHCA/NCAL said.”


Federal Government Considers Relaxing Requirements For Infection Control In Nursing Homes

USA Today (5/4, Kwiatkowski, Nadolny, 10.31M) reports, “The federal government is considering rolling back infection control requirements in U.S. nursing homes – even as the long-term care industry’s residents and workers are overwhelmed by the coronavirus.” A rule that was “proposed last year by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would modify the amount of time an infection preventionist must devote to a facility from at least part-time to ‘sufficient time,’ an undefined term that lets the facility decide how much time should be spent.” This “regulation has not been finalized, but CMS last week defended its proposal, saying it aims to reduce regulatory burden and strengthen infection control.” The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living “said it supports quality infection prevention in facilities but is behind CMS’ proposed rule change.” In a statement, the organization said, “When we get through this, the entire country will need to have a serious discussion and reckoning about our infection control practices in health care settings and throughout society.”

Long-Term Care Industry Expresses Concern As States Begin To Reopen

McKnight’s Senior Living (5/4, Kimberly Bonvissuto) reports, “As governors take steps to reopen their states in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term care industry is taking a more cautious approach to relaxing the protocols put in place within the past two months.” Some “long-term care providers have expressed fears that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could put workers at an increased risk of developing or spreading the disease through facilities.” American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living president and CEO Mark Parkinson “said opening states too quickly could result in another coronavirus spike in senior living and care facilities.” Parkinson said, “Governors have to be careful about what they allow to happen in states because it will have an impact on buildings.”

CEOs Of 11 Large Senior Living Companies Asked To Detail COVID-19 Strategies

McKnight’s Senior Living (5/4, Bowers) reports, “Senior living operators may not be receiving the personal protective equipment that nursing homes have been promised by the federal government to fight COVID-19, but now they may be receiving a level of federal scrutiny similar to nursing homes.” According to McKnight’s, “the CEOs of 11 of some of the country’s largest senior living companies have until Friday to respond to a letter from three members of Congress asking them to detail the extent of COVID-19 at their communities and the actions they are taking to prevent or mitigate the disease.” A letter sent by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Rep Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) asked “the leaders to share the total number of communities, residents and staff members at each company as well as the number and severity of COVID-19 cases among residents and staff members and the communities in which any cases have occurred; details related to testing and the reporting of results; sick leave, family leave, medical leave and hazard pay offered to employees; visitation policies; and the use of PPE.”

        McKnight’s Senior Living (5/5, Bowers) reports, “Industry associations are supporting the transparency requested by” the “three members of Congress.” For instance, “National Center for Assisted Living Executive Director Scott Tittle told McKnight’s Senior Living that NCAL appreciates that members of Congress are showing concern for the assisted living sector of long-term care and that NCAL hopes to work with the letter-writers as well as the administration and state and local officials ‘to get these heroic caregivers the resources they need to keep this virus at bay.’” He said, “Assisted living communities desperately need additional personal protective equipment, testing, staffing and funding to fight COVID-19.”

Provider Magazine Offers Snapshots From COVID-19 Front Lines

Provider Magazine (5/1, Mendoza, Connole, 151K) presents “a series of real-life snapshots from the front lines of the fight to save Americans from COVID-19 infection.” Provider interviewed a number of providers, in a variety of roles, throughout the country. Those interviewed mentioned areas they were focusing on at the time of their interviews, which included the critical need for communication, education of staff, obtaining sufficient PPE, and making resident safety the number one priority.

Expert: Swift, Strong Response Needed During COVID-19 Crisis

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (5/4, Berklan) reports that during the COVID-19 crisis, “a company’s top executives must respond swiftly and strongly,” according to Phil Fogg, Jr., vice chairman of the board of the American Health Care Association. In a recent McKnight’s Online Forum Session, Fogg said that “providers must be confident enough to devise a well-educated plan and run with it,” and “they should expect to tweak it as needed.” He also said, “What’s important to understand is you cannot expect to have everything certain when you’re making decisions. … You’re going to have to make choices with your best guesses and as information becomes factual or certain, then you can change your assumptions. But don’t be paralyzed or do nothing, whether it’s managing your expenses or making an investment in something.”


Telehealth May Strengthen Referral Sources, Provide Exceptional Resident Care, Expert Says

In a piece for McKnight’s Senior Living (5/4, Darlington), Jared Darlington, founder and CEO of Cornucopia Family Homes, writes that on “March 17, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that Medicare will pay for telehealth services provided to beneficiaries ‘in any health care facility and in their home’ and won’t enforce the established-relationship rule.” According to Darlington, “Telehealth has the potential to change your organization for the better in several ways, so it is smart to introduce it with much thought.” He adds, “It can shape your organization, strengthen your referral sources and provide more exceptional resident care for years to come. Understanding and preparing your organization for the process of implementing any new telehealth program can be the difference between success and failure.”