Coronavirus Update #114
AHCA/NCAL Request for Assisted Living Funding, HHS Announces Relief
for Medicaid Providers, Message from AHCA/NCAL President & CEO,
Continued Appreciation for Our Partnership with AHCA/NCAL
AHCA/NCAL Request for Assisted Living Funding and Support

Yesterday, AHCA/NCAL sent a letter to HHS and FEMA to request $5 billion in emergency funding and support for assisted living communities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. While nursing homes have received federal funding, PPE supplies and testing priority, assisted living communities in the U.S. have not received any direct federal funding or assistance from HHS.

Like nursing homes, our assisted living residents are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19, as more than half are above the age of 85, and many are living with underlying health conditions.

HFAM will also be sending a similar funding request letter. If you would like to join in support, please contact your elected officials to ask them to weigh in with Secretary Azar and FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor.

Here are some talking points to share:

  • AL communities have not received any direct federal funding, PPE or prioritization for testing. AL communities serve older adults with underlying conditions who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

  • AL operators are dedicating significant resources right now related to COVID-19 measures.

  • Those who work in AL communities, like skilled nursing, hospitals and other health care and congregate settings, are on the frontlines working hard each day to prevent the virus from entering these facilities as well as containing it once a positive case has been identified.
  • Request HHS to Provide $5 billion in Emergency Relief Funding to Pay for Staffing, Testing and PPE Equipment.

  • Request FEMA to Expediate Shipments of Quality PPE Equipment and Work with State Governments to Identify Additional Supplies.

  • Request HHS to Provide Guidance to State Governments to Expand Priority Testing and Funding to Assisted Living Communities.

Alex Azar, HHS Secretary
Peter Gaynor, FEMA Administrator:

CLICK HERE to locate your elected officials.
HHS Announces Relief Fund Payments for Medicaid Providers

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has announced additional distributions from the Provider Relief Fund to eligible Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) providers that participate in state Medicaid and CHIP programs. HHS expects to distribute approximately $15 billion to eligible providers that participate in state Medicaid and CHIP programs and have not received a payment from the Provider Relief Fund General Allocation.

This funding provides much needed relief specifically for Medicaid-only long-term care centers and other providers, such as Sacred Heart Home and St. Joseph's Nursing Home in Maryland. As these centers care for seniors and those with underlying conditions who are most-at risk if they contract COVID-19, this funding from the federal government is critical to acquire testing, equipment, and staffing.
Message from AHCA/NCAL President & CEO Mark Parkinson: We Won't Back Down

T oday, AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson, shared a special message with members across the country. He stated, "Our sector faces its greatest challenge in history. This isn’t like the usual fight we have in D.C. over a two percent increase or cut, or over some crazy regulation. Instead, this is a battle for the lives of our residents, our staff, and the very survival of our sector. We didn’t cause the COVID-19 crisis, but we will be a large part of the solution ." 

As we have shared before, this virus has one unique feature in that 40% of the people who become COVID-19 positive show few, if any, symptoms for several days before becoming sick. It is possible that there have been tens of thousands of pre-symptomatic COVID-19 carriers in the United States. In areas where there are large numbers of COVID-19 positive residents, it was inevitable that some of them would visit our facilities, and others would work in our buildings. 
It wasn’t a matter of bad operators getting COVID-19 and good operators not getting it. The facts indicate that your Five-Star rating, profit vs. not for profit status, or prior deficiency history are not predictors of whether COVID-19 gets in your buildings. The most important factor in determining whether COVID-19 ends up in a building is the surrounding community of where the building is located.

Independent findings from researchers at Harvard, Brown, and the University of Chicago agree. It is incredibly important that our staff, residents, family members, and policymakers understand this. Our staff and residents were victims of a virus that spread from carriers who didn’t know they had it. 

Once we learned that pre-symptomatic carriers were spreading this virus, we could only fight back if we had sufficient testing to figure out who had the virus and sufficient PPE to keep it from spreading. We couldn’t get either. This is where our staff and residents became victims for the second time.

Rather than recognizing that long term care providers were helpless to identify pre-symptomatic carriers who were spreading the virus, we have been blamed. At a time when we need collaboration and a helping hand, we are instead getting hit with a punitive approach. This government response in some cases is an attempt to deflect from the horrible policy mistakes made early on. Some continue to believe that only bad facilities have COVID-19 and so the answer is more regulation, more deficiencies, and more fines.

We must:

  • Continue to work hard to make sure that COVID-19 cases in the community at-large are low. If cases spike in the community again, it is inevitable that cases will spike in long term care centers.

  • Be an absolute priority for testing and PPE. Those are the only ways we can stop or slow this down. It’s not enough to mandate testing. Government officials need to make sure tests are available and provide funds to cover the costs.

  • Re-double our efforts on our internal infection control to minimize the risk of spread.

  • Re-open to visitors only when there is a very low rate of COVID-19 in the community and sufficient PPE exists to make the visits safe.

You and your teams haven't given up. You and your teams have been incredible, and we’ve been inspired by your stories . AHCA/NCAL is fighting back in DC as well. We were fortunate in getting a series of small and big wins, that collectively, have started to help. However, there are still many challenges we face together. We will be fighting this virus until there is a vaccine, and all operators need more help for testing, PPE, staffing, lost revenue, and added expenses. Finally, we have yet to get relief for assisted living, which has unacceptably been left out.
Fortunately, we have three specific opportunities that are in front of us right now that we must seize. First, we have a real chance to get some financial relief for assisted living. Our second opportunity is federal liability immunity related to COVID-19. Our third opportunity is for additional funding for skilled nursing centers from the $62 billion left in the Provider Relief Fund.

2020 has been a super tough year. And it’s only JUNE. But we aren’t giving up and we know you aren’t either. Thanks for all you are doing. It inspires us every day.
Continued Appreciation for Our Partnership with AHCA/NCAL

Along with the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), HFAM will continue to effectively communicate and advocate using every tool at our disposal to promote access to quality care for Marylanders in need. 

We owe tremendous thanks AHCA/NCAL leadership for the billions of dollars in much needed federal relief that they secured for the long-term care sector across the nation, and for millions of dollars for all in our sector here in Maryland. These dollars have been critical to back funding increased labor and PPE costs to support our healthcare heroes providing quality care to Marylanders.
CMS COVID-19 Stakeholder Engagement Calls – Week of 6/8/2020

CMS hosts varied recurring stakeholder engagement sessions to share information related to the agency’s response to COVID-19. These sessions are open to members of the healthcare community and are intended to provide updates, share best practices among peers, and offer attendees an opportunity to ask questions of CMS and other subject matter experts.Call details are below. Conference lines are limited so you are highly encouraged to join via audio webcast.

CMS COVID-19 Office Hours Calls (Tuesdays at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern)

Office Hour Calls provide an opportunity for hospitals, health systems, and providers to ask questions of agency officials regarding CMS’s temporary actions that empower local hospitals and healthcare systems to: Increase Hospital Capacity – CMS Hospitals Without Walls; Rapidly Expand the Healthcare Workforce; Put Patients Over Paperwork; and Further Promote Telehealth in Medicare

This week’s Office Hours:
Tuesday, June 9th at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern
Toll Free Attendee Dial In: 833-614-0820; 
Access Passcode: 4892554
Weekly COVID-19 Care Site-Specific Calls

CMS hosts weekly calls for certain types of organizations to provide targeted updates on the agency’s latest COVID-19 guidance. One to two leaders in the field also share best practices with their peers. There is an opportunity to ask questions of presenters if time allows.
Nursing Homes (Wednesdays at 4:30 PM Eastern)
Wednesday, June 10th at 4:30 – 5:00 PM Eastern
Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; 
Access Passcode: 9782909

Dialysis Organizations (Wednesdays at 5:30 PM Eastern)
Wednesday, June 10th at 5:30 – 6:00 PM Eastern
Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; 
Access Passcode: 6553907
Nurses (Thursdays at 3:00 PM Eastern)
Thursday, June 11th at 3:00 – 3:30 PM Eastern
Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; 
Access Passcode: 2863547
Did you miss HFAM's previous alerts?

Visit our website to view all previous HFAM alerts, as well as guidance
from our federal and state partners.
Thank you.

We cannot thank you enough for the dedication and diligence in doing all that you can for the residents in your communities. HFAM continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic with our state and national partners and will do all we can to support you during this time.