The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that contains some additional support for the nation’s beleaguered nursing homes, with President Biden expected to sign the package into law Friday.
The American Rescue Plan specifically includes $200 million to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts and infection control improvements in nursing homes through contracts with Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs), along with an additional $250 million for states to fund dedicated “strike teams” to help facilities combat outbreaks for up to a year after the end of the formal coronavirus emergency.
The bill will also inject another $8.5 billion into the Provider Relief Fund, but only for rural operators, according to an analysis of the legislation from non-profit senior services trade group LeadingAge.
While the most recent stimulus package includes a host of provisions that could eventually trickle down to the post-acute and long-term care sector — including billions for testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), workforce development, and hazard-pay grants for employers of essential workers — the specific nursing home provisions fall far short the $20 billion in additional aid requested by the American Health Care Association, the nation’s top trade and lobbying group for for-profit facilities.
The nursing home sector thus far has benefited from about $21 billion in aid through the CARES Act — a total that includes distributions from the Provider Relief Fund, Paycheck Protection Program loans, and testing equipment, according to AHCA.
Various financial analyses and disclosures have indicated that the government largesse thus far has kept operators afloat amid the twin financial hits of record-low occupancy and substantially elevated expenses. But AHCA has specifically warned of more than 1,600 facility closures or mergers in 2021 if the sector does not receive more aid.
Critics of the space have countered that more transparency is needed around nursing home income and spending given the COVID-19 death toll in long-term care, with embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposing caps on profits and expanded transparency rules for operators and investors.
Providers of home- and community-based services (HCBS), meanwhile, will see an additional $12.7 billion in funding through a bigger boost to the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP), or Washington’s share of state-level Medicaid payments.