Following Delgado Push, HHS Distributes Overdue Funding for Nursing Homes
WASHINGTON, DC—Following U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado’s and 18 members urging, today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced they have begun distributing funding for Skilled Nursing Facilities across the country. According to their announcement, Skilled Nursing Facilities will receive $50,000, plus a distribution of $2,500 per bed. All certified nursing homes with six or more certified beds are eligible for this targeted distribution. These funds had been appropriated by Congress through the CARES Act and supplemental emergency relief legislation signed into law last month.
Last week, Rep. Delgado and 18 members of the House of Representatives urged HHS Secretary Azar to release these funds to support nursing homes across upstate New York and ensure access to COVID-19 testing.
“I welcome this announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services—these funds are an overdue step for sorely needed supplies and relief to our most vulnerable populations. I’m glad HHS listened to our demands to distribute this support to nursing homes battling this disease every day. Additionally, the Department must provide answers to Congress as to why these already appropriated funds took so long to get to our health care providers. Every single moment in this pandemic matters and Secretary Azar must explain the delay,” said Rep. Antonio Delgado.
Last week, Rep. Delgado and 18 members of Congress wrote to the Health and Human Services Secretary Azar urging him to distribute funding as soon as possible. The full text of the letter can be found here and below.
Dear Secretary Azar,
We write to express our concern and frustration that long-term care facilities have not received sufficient financial support from the $175 billion Congress has appropriated to the Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) Fund over the past six weeks. Long-term care facilities are on the front lines of caring for the most vulnerable people in our communities, and it is unacceptable that financial support for them has been so delayed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes that nursing home residents are at particularly high risk of infection and death from COVID-19. Since the start of the outbreak, media reports suggest that more than 25,000 long-term care residents and workers have died of COVID-19 – one-third of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. In central Virginia, 51 residents died in one facility – nearly a third of that facility’s total population. There are currently 7,700 outbreaks in facilities across the country, including 160 in Virginia. Without federal action, these communities could experience tragedies on the scale of what central Virginia has already endured.
Long-term care facilities are struggling to contain these outbreaks and keep their residents and workers safe. Additional financial resources would allow facilities to purchase more personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, add additional staffers, and improve access to testing for residents and workers—which is the foundation of any containment strategy.
We are disappointed that your department has used methodologies that minimize long-term care facilities’ awards when distributing funds from the more than $70 billion allocated to date. Congress was clear in both the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection and Health Care Enhancement Act that “eligible health care providers” for distributions from the PHSS Fund include both “Medicare and Medicaid suppliers and providers.” As you know, nursing homes are disproportionately dependent on Medicaid for reimbursement, so a methodology based on percentage of total patient revenue minimizes their awards. Such a methodology also limits awards to assisted living facilities, which offer limited reimbursable medical services.
We urge you to release PHSS funds appropriated by the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection and Health Care Enhancement Act to long-term care facilities as soon as possible. Additional financial support is essential to protecting the vulnerable populations these facilities serve.
Additionally, we request a Congressional briefing from HHS about the reasons for the delay and an overview of the consultative process that informed any eventual distributive methodology for long-term care providers. We are deeply troubled and frustrated by the delays and the lack of clarity around the agency’s decision-making processes to date.
The staff and residents in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities around the country desperately need your immediate and ongoing support. Ensuring that this funding is delivered to these providers promptly is critical to their primary role in flattening the curve of this virus and protecting our nation’s seniors and most vulnerable. We look forward to continuing to work with you to keep these residents safe from COVID-19.