Nursing Homes press HHS to release the next distribution of provider relief

Inside Health Policy

August 11, 2021 9:25 am

Nursing homes are pressing HHS to release the next distribution of provider relief immediately and to dedicate $13 billion in COVID-19 relief to long-term care providers, warning that thousands of facilities are on the verge of closing.

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living’s letter to HHS Tuesday (Aug. 10) came after hospitals and other providers had already demanded the department release the remaining relief after senators agreed not to repurpose unobligated provider relief to pay for infrastructure. But HHS has yet to announce how it intends to roll out the remaining COVID-19 relief.

AHCA’s letter reiterates how rising labor costs coupled with a decline in residents have financially strained nursing homes that are already struggling due to years of Medicaid shortfalls. Plus, the lobby group estimates facilities spent $30 million in personal protective equipment and staffing last year, and it expects the investment to continue with the delta variant’s spread.

“As a result, thousands of long-term care facilities are on the verge of collapse, with many nursing homes in danger of closing their doors this year. This has real consequences for residents and their families particularly in underserved communities,” AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson wrote. “Closures leave residents displaced from their long-standing communities and loved ones. Closures also reduce options for quality care, especially in rural areas.”

The last provider relief distribution was announced in October, and HHS is still sending that relief to providers — sometimes months after they applied. Some experts see the existence of a fourth reporting period as proof that there will be another provider relief distribution. In December, Congress directed HHS to consider provider losses and expenses through March 2021 when determining the next distributions.

“The Senate and White House have recently reaffirmed their commitment to preserving the roughly $44 billion Provider Relief Fund during the recent bi-partisan infrastructure negotiations,” Parkinson writes, citing the Government Accountability Office’s estimate of remaining relief. “It is both urgent and imperative that we continue to support the distribution of additional aid to the [long-term care] sector.”

After months of HHS saying there’s only $24 billion in unallocated provider relief left in the $178 billion fund, a GAO report published July 19 found there’s nearly $44 billion in leftover relief. The department told Inside Health Policy on Aug. 3 that the discrepancy is due to the difference between funds that are “unallocated” and “unobligated,” the latter being yet-to-be-designated funds plus what is leftover from a specific project.