The Senate this week passed an updated stimulus bill that will load an additional $75 billion into a dedicated relief fund for health care providers, though nursing homes that rely on Medicaid for income are still waiting for the first distribution from the pot.
The $2 trillion CARES Act set aside $100 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to distribute directly to health care providers. The most recent $480 billion supplement bill, which the House is expected to pass Thursday, will boost the overall funding to $175 billion, according to multiple analyses of its text.
Earlier this month, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Seema Verma announced an initial $30 billion tranche of funds for Medicare providers. The federal government then began depositing the cash, with the amounts based on operators’ 2019 Medicare reimbursements, directly into corporate accounts with little fanfare.
Despite Verma’s earlier promise that the funds came with “no strings attached,” operators must agree to a variety of terms in order to keep the cash — which could total $1.5 billion for skilled nursing facilities — or face the prospect of sending it back.
In addition, the initial $30 billion injection did not provide relief for the many nursing facilities that derive most of their income from Medicaid, a program that covers more than 60% of residents at the nation’s 15,000-plus nursing homes.
“Those organizations will be addressed in the second tranche of funding, and we will have a priority for these organizations and these types of health care providers,” Verma said earlier this month, referring to providers that receive significant proportions of revenue from Medicaid and other payer sources.
A group of 27 U.S. senators last week demanded that CMS and HHS release more cash from the fund to long-term care operators, citing increased staffing costs and shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We are hearing from providers in our respective states that they are unable to order basic medical supplies, including but not limited to protective masks, gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, and face shields,” the senators wrote. “We must ensure these supplies are flowing to the providers who are on the front lines of caring for some of our nation’s most vulnerable — our seniors.”
The package also includes $25 billion for COVID-19 testing and an extra $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a small-business lending initiative that quickly burned through its initial $349 billion appropriation under the weight of staggering demand from business owners of all stripes.
Nursing home owners and operators who meet the terms of that program could receive up to $10 million in forgivable loans, so long as they use the funds to maintain consistent employment.