COVID-19 Updates


Rep. Jennifer Wexton Urges Lawmakers To Address Needs Of Long-Term Care Facilities During COVID-19 Pandemic

Provider Magazine (4/13, Connole, 151K) reports that “Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) tells Provider she wants to make sure long term care facilities are prioritized when it comes to receiving necessary funding and personal protective equipment (PPE) in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing to the unique challenges skilled nursing and assisted living communities face.” In order “to push her message, the lawmaker has sent a bipartisan letter, co-led by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), to House and Senate leadership addressing the needs of skilled nursing and assisted living communities,” and has “also urged the Department of Health and Human Services to swiftly distribute billions of dollars in federal funding signed into law as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to nursing facilities and assisted living communities in Virginia and across the country.” Last week, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living said long-term care facilities were “included in the release of the first $30 billion of the total $100 billion in aid set aside in the Cares Act for health care providers.” Wexton expressed “in her letter to congressional leaders that she would like to see additional funding in the next stimulus package that would directly aid skilled nursing facilities and assisted living centers experiencing urgent situations.”



New COVID-19 Reporting Guidelines For Nursing Homes May Be Released By CMS This Week

Skilled Nursing News (4/13, Spanko) reports that “the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) could formally release new COVID-19 reporting guidelines for nursing homes as soon as this week, sources told the Wall Street Journal Sunday.” The WSJ “had few other details about the exact scope of a potential CMS order, with a spokesperson telling the Wall Street Journal that ‘the agency remains committed to greater transparency.’” Over the weekend, the American Health Care Association urged “its members to report all COVID-19 cases to state survey agencies – CMS’s on-the-ground affiliates that conduct routine inspections of nursing homes.”

AHCA/NCAL Offers Further Response To Proposed CMS 2.3 Percent Medicare Payment Increase

The RevCycle Intelligence (4/13, LaPointe) reports that “skilled nursing facilities are slated to see a 2.3 percent, or $784 million, increase in Medicare payments in the 2021 fiscal year (FY), according to a rule proposed by CMS late on Friday.” AHCA/NCAL “applauded the proposed rule for skilled nursing facility payments next year.” In a statement emailed to RevCycleIntelligence, AHCA president and CEO Mark Parkinson said, “Skilled nursing facilities across the country are working around the clock to protect the people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. That work makes this 2.3 percent market basket increase more important than ever.” Parkinson also said, “This proposed rule, combined with the Patient-Driven Payment Model implemented last year, helps us continue our work to provide the highest quality care possible. … With an all-in margin of -0.3 percent, there are still real challenges for skilled nursing providers. However, this increase gets us headed in the right direction. We thank Administrator Verma and the Administration for this action.”

State Affiliates Continue To Address COVID-19

Member organizations continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in their states. For example, Alabama Political Reporter (4/13) reports that Dr. Brandon Farmer with the Alabama Nursing Home Association “said that the nursing homes are immediately isolating infected residents and if needed are transferring those patients to the appropriate hospitals to receive acute care.” Farmer also “said that there is still a significant shortage in PPE.” He “said that they are working to see that federal matching appropriation are disseminated quickly.”

KNWA-TV Fayetteville, AR (4/12) reports Arkansas Health Care Association Executive Director Rachel Bunch said, “We have minimized a lot of the spread not only in the state and thanks to the governor’s actions and leadership here but we have also minimized it within our facilities.”

Florida Politics (4/13, Sexton) reports, “The Florida Health Care Association last week sent a letter to the governor asking that he provide immunity from any civil or criminal liability ‘for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing health care services’ during the COVID-19 public health emergency.” The letter dated April 3, “signed by FHCA President Emmett Reed, says the proposed blanket immunity should not apply to willful or intentional criminal misconduct or gross negligence.” The FHCA letter “also asked that sovereign-immunity limits be applied to health care professionals and health care facilities responding to the outbreak.” The letter said, “This would provide the necessary liability protection to health care professionals and health care facilities to provide services for any individual in the state during the emergency rule without fear of reprisal for providing care to their patients during this difficult time.”

USA Today (4/11, Hauck, 10.31M) reported “the FHCA argues that ‘in the midst of this unprecedented crisis, (health care professionals) should be able to direct their skills and attention to helping individuals who need them, and not have to worry about being sued for making tough decisions while trying to comply with government directives,’ spokesperson Kristen Knapp said.”

The Columbia (MD) Patch (4/13, Danley, 1.03M) reports, “The Horizon Foundation will be donating an additional $1 million to help meet emergency health needs caused by the new coronavirus outbreak.” According to the Patch, the Health Facilities Association of Maryland is to receive $125,000 from the grant “to provide personal protective equipment, food and temporary housing for front line health care workers at 25 assisted living, skilled nursing and other alternative living facilities in Howard County, and to provide technology so that patients can better engage with loved ones who cannot visit during the state of emergency.”



CMS Relaxes Restrictions On Physicians Providing Care In Long-Term Care, Skilled Nursing Facilities

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (4/12, Lasek) reports “the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has eased a number of service restrictions on physicians who provide care for residents in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities.” These “physician waivers specifically address staff shortages in facilities caring for patients with the coronavirus.” The measures indicate, among other things, that “physicians are not required to perform in-person visits for nursing facility residents and may instead conduct visits via telehealth options as appropriate.”

Data Indicate SNF Referral Patterns Disrupted By COVID-19, But Programs May Be Available To Improve Revenue Access, Expert Says

McKnight’s Senior Living (4/13, Novotney) reports “COVID‐19 is disrupting referral patterns to skilled nursing facilities…according to data released last week by professional services firm CliftonLarsonAllen.” CLA Principal and Senior Living Leader Cory Rutledge “pointed to several programs available to SNFs that can improve revenue access during this challenging time.” The “options include the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, loan opportunities included in Title IV of the CARES Act, the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program and various state-specific relief efforts.”

Funding From Stimulus Package For SNFs Reportedly Based On Medicare Revenue, “No Strings Attached,” Expert Says

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (4/13) reports that providers requested money from the federal government “as they incur significant costs in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” and on Friday, the government responded “by releasing a portion of funding from the $2 trillion stimulus package.” One payment expert “noted that $1.5 billion will be distributed directly to skilled nursing facilities within a week.” The expert said, “They are saying no strings attached. It will be based on Medicare revenue.”

Recent COVID-19 Survey Responses Include Themes Of Hope, Strength

In a piece for McKnight’s Senior Living (4/13), Lois A. Bowers writes about the recent McKnight’s COVID-19 related survey, and the open-ended question “that invited people to share other thoughts related to the virus.” Bowers says, “I was struck by the powerful themes of hope, strength and togetherness that arose in some of the answers to that question.” The comments included responses such as, “We appreciate all the love and kindness we are getting from our families, friends, senior management, community, etc.” and “Situations like we are facing today bring out the best in people. Many have found they have talents and resolve that they didn’t even know they had. We are in this industry for a reason, and COVID-19 reminds us of this reason.”

Researchers Say Mediterranean Diet Slows Cognitive Impairment

CNN (4/14, Lamotte, 83.16M) reports researchers have found that “you can reduce your risk for cognitive impairment by half if you closely follow the Mediterranean diet, known for its emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil.” Lead author Dr. Emily Chew, “who directs the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications (DECA) at the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland,” is quoted saying, “People with the higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet had almost a 45% to 50% reduction in the risk of having an impaired cognitive function.”