The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new set of actions to support nursing homes and prevent further outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Details on the components of this latest initiative follow.
- Funding – CMS states that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will dedicate an additional allotment of $5 billion from the provider relief fund to long term care facilities and state veterans’ homes. This $5 billion is in addition to the previously disbursed $4.9 billion to nursing homes in May 2020. To qualify for this funding, CMS further states nursing homes must participate in a new Nursing Home COVID-19 Training program, described in more detail below. Information on the most recent provider relief fund activity is available here.
- Training, Technical Assistance, and Support – In addition to the recently deployed Task Force Strike Teams providing onsite technical support to nursing homes with high case counts of COVID-19, CMS also states it is offering an “online, self-paced, on-demand” COVID-19 training for nursing homes. CMS is offering this training in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The program will focus on infection control and best practices, offering 23 modules covering strategies such as cohorting and the use of telehealth. CMS states the training will be available to all 15,400 nursing homes in the U.S. and will provide certificates and recognition badges upon completion.
- Testing – CMS states it will now be requiring (not recommending) that nursing homes in states with a five percent positivity rate or higher begin testing all nursing home staff each week. To support this requirement, CMS states more than 15,000 testing devices will be distributed over the next few months to nursing homes.
- Data Reporting – As a part of the weekly Governor’s report sent to states, the White House and CMS will begin sending a list of nursing homes with an increase in cases to states each week.
Of note, this announcement follows a recent congressional hearing on the effects of COVID-19 on seniors, which focused in particular on how COVID-19 disproportionately impacts nursing home staff members, who are more often members of minority communities (details).