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CMS Proposes 1.3 Percent Increase to Medicare Rates for SNFs in 2022<p>The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday released the Skilled Nursing Facility Prospective Payment System (SNF PPS) FY 2022 draft rule in which the agency proposed a 1.3 percent increase in Medicare rates for nursing homes.</p><p>In response, Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association (AHCA), said the 1.3 percent rate hike for SNFs in the next fiscal year would result in an increase of approximately $444 million in Medicare Part A payments. </p><p>“Nursing homes across the country continue to dedicate extensive resources to protect their residents and staff from COVID-19,” he said. </p><p>“This ongoing work makes government support and robust reimbursement rates more important than ever. With the skilled nursing profession grappling with an economic crisis and hundreds of facilities on the brink of closure due to the pandemic, it is critical that Medicare remain a reliable funding source and reflect the increasing costs providers are facing.”</p><p>Parkinson added that “we also recognize the importance of quality measures associated with COVID-19, including a proposed measure of the COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage among health care personnel. We thank [CMS] Acting Administrator [Liz] Richter and the [Biden] administration for their support through the pandemic.”</p><p>For further information, go to <a href="https&#58;//www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/current">Federal Register &#58;&#58; Federal Register Documents Currently on Public Inspection. </a></p>2021-04-08T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/DC-at-night.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />Reimbursement;PolicyPatrick ConnoleThe hike for SNFs in the next fiscal year would result in an increase of approximately $444 million in Medicare Part A payments.
COVID Cases in Nursing Homes Down 96 Percent Since Vaccine Rollout<p>A new <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/News-and-Communications/Fact-Sheets/FactSheets/Report-Nursing-Homes-Cases-Mar7-2021.pdf">report </a>released on March 30 shows a dramatic decline in COVID-19 cases in U.S. nursing homes, thanks to initial vaccine allocations prioritized for the nation’s elders and people with disabilities in such facilities, advocates said.</p><p>The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), which issued the report, said the COVID numbers are “incredibly encouraging” and called on Congress to consider the industry’s <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/Advocacy/Pages/Care-For-Our-Seniors-Act.aspx">Care For Our Seniors Act </a>to address systemic issues facing the nursing home sector and prevent another COVID-type crisis. </p><p>In detail, the report said recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show nursing homes have seen a 96 percent decline in new COVID cases among residents since the peak during the week of Dec. 20, 2020, when there were more than 30,000 new resident cases. Along with the lowest number of new COVID cases, AHCA/NCAL’s new report shows COVID-related deaths in nursing homes declined by 91 percent since that December peak.</p><p>“We are not out of the woods yet, but these numbers are incredibly encouraging and a major morale booster for frontline caregivers who have been working tirelessly for more than a year to protect our residents,” said Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of AHCA/NCAL. </p><p>“This trend shows that when long term care is prioritized, as with the national vaccine rollout, we can protect our vulnerable elderly population. Now we need Congress to prioritize our nursing homes for the long-term by considering the initiatives in the Care For Our Seniors Act to improve the quality of care for our residents.” </p><p>AHCA and LeadingAge recently released the reform agenda, the <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/Advocacy/Pages/Care-For-Our-Seniors-Act.aspx">Care For Our Seniors Act, </a>to address long-standing challenges affecting the quality of care provided in America’s nursing homes. The organizations say the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated systemic issues impacting the nursing home sector, such as workforce shortages, aging physical plants, and underfunded government reimbursement for care. </p><p>The act focuses on four keys for improvement, which include enhancing the quality of care with enhanced standards for infection preventionists, requiring that each nursing home have a registered nurse on staff, 24-hours-per-day, and requiring a minimum 30-day supply of personal protective equipment in all nursing centers. </p><p>The initiative also calls for a multi-phase, tiered approach to attract, retain, and develop more long term care professionals leveraging federal, state, and academic institutions, AHCA/NCAL said. </p><p>While recommending several new ways to improve oversight and processes to support better care and protect residents, the proposal also aims to modernize nursing homes by looking at how the industry could shift to more private rooms, promoting resident privacy and supporting infection control best practices. </p><p>AHCA and LeadingAge said such reforms will be costly but are long overdue. “The nursing home sector has been facing a financial crisis for years even before COVID due to low Medicaid reimbursement, the primary coverage for nursing home residents,” AHCA said. </p><p>“The Care For Our Seniors Act calls for an increase in federal Medicaid funds provided to states and bringing the Medicaid rate up to equal the cost of care. Currently, Medicaid only covers 70 to 80 percent of the costs to care for a nursing home resident.” </p><p>Parkinson added that with a growing elderly population soon needing long term care services, the moment for Congress to act is now. </p><p>“We must pay tribute to all those who lost their lives to this vicious virus and resolve to bring forth a brighter future,” he said. “We have already seen what progress can be made when policymakers come together to make long term care residents a priority, and through these reforms, we can significantly improve the quality of care for our current residents and generations to come.”<br></p>2021-03-30T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/1020_News1.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />COVID-19;PolicyPatrick ConnoleNew report shows COVID-related deaths in nursing homes declined by 91 percent since a December peak.
Nursing Home Industry Addresses Congress on Private Equity, Quality Issues<p>The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) on March 25 said a small percentage of nursing homes are owned by private-equity firms and that pointing at ownership structure when considering the quality of care being provided at facilities misses the larger picture.</p><p>The statement came after the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee’s hearing, “Examining Private Equity’s Expanded Role in the U.S. Health Care System.”</p><p>Mark Parkinson, AHCA/NCAL president and chief executive officer, said, “Ninety-five percent of nursing homes in the United States were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and less than 10 percent of total nursing homes are owned by private-equity firms. There are many factors that affect the quality of care in nursing homes, and focusing solely on ownership structure will not achieve better outcomes for residents and staff.” </p><p>He said in order to continue improving the overall quality of care, “We must work toward solutions that increase our nation’s investment in our long term care facilities and incentivize providers to generate great outcomes. That’s why AHCA and LeadingAge have proposed the <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/Advocacy/Pages/Care-For-Our-Seniors-Act.aspx">Care For Our Seniors Act, </a>a package of reform proposals that will address long-standing challenges within our industry and usher in a stronger long term care system.” </p><p>Parkinson said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated systemic issues that the long term care industry has been calling attention to for years, such as widespread workforce shortages and chronic Medicaid underfunding. </p><p>“The financial crisis nursing home providers are facing has left many struggling to keep their doors open and restricts them from being able to attract more workers, make enhancements to care delivery, or modernize their structures,” he said. </p><p>“That is why a small number of providers have sought the help of private investors when they can barely stay afloat.”</p><p>Parkinson said as the profession begins to turn a corner in its fight against the pandemic, “We now have an opportunity to create a brighter future for our seniors. We must apply the lessons we have learned from the past year to make substantive reform in our industry.</p><p>“We stand ready to work collaboratively with lawmakers to find solutions that will ensure our current residents and future residents have access to quality long term care options.”<br></p>2021-03-25T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/capitol_steps.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />PolicyPatrick ConnoleFocusing on the ownership structure in nursing homes misses an opportunity to learn from the pandemic.
Workforce Crisis in SNFs Points to Need for Greater Reimbursement <p>In testimony to the Senate Finance Committee hearing, “A National Tragedy&#58; COVID-19 in the Nation’s Nursing Homes,” American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) Chief Medical Officer David Gifford, MD, told lawmakers the workforce crisis in the profession is directly tied to reimbursement gaps between what it costs to care for residents and what providers are paid.&#160; </p><p>He said the association appreciated the fact the committee was asking important questions resulting from the pandemic and the corresponding national tragedy, as well as lawmakers’ interest in efforts to improve the care provided in U.S. nursing homes. </p><p>“One of these primary challenges is how to tackle the workforce crisis in long term care. The need to attract and retain more quality caregivers to serve our nation’s most vulnerable could not be more paramount than it is right now,” Gifford said. </p><p>“While we support efforts to offer more competitive wages as well as increase the number of staff at the bedside, we cannot hope to accomplish this without a considerable investment in our long term care system.” </p><p>He noted that as a labor-intensive health care provider that relies almost entirely on government reimbursement (Medicare and Medicaid), nursing homes need the support of policymakers and resources to make workforce improvements. </p><p>“That is why the <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/Advocacy/Pages/Care-For-Our-Seniors-Act.aspx">Care For Our Seniors Act</a>—a reform plan we issued alongside LeadingAge—offers a comprehensive approach to how Congress and other policymakers can prioritize long term care in order to help our facilities better compete for highly dedicated and trained caregivers,” he said. </p><p>In addition, Gifford said AHCA/NCAL is seeking to improve the care provided in nursing homes by addressing poor care and how to incentivize better care. </p><p>The Care For Our Seniors Act looks at how the profession can address chronic poor performing facilities, no matter their business structure. “We need to identify why certain facilities are persistently struggling, get involved with these facilities, and if they don’t improve, they should not continue to operate.” </p><p>Gifford said AHCA/NCAL supports transparency of federal resources directed to nursing homes. But the most meaningful way to improve care is by focusing on infection control and increasing workforce availability, so more nurses and caregivers can help create great outcomes for residents. </p><p>“We look forward to a continued conversation with lawmakers on how we can work collaboratively to make nursing homes a priority, address these systemic challenges, and ensure a stronger long term care system moving forward,” he said. </p><p>Read Gifford’s full testimony <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/Advocacy/Testimony/Testimony/Dr.%20David%20Gifford%20Senate%20Finance%203.17.2021.pdf">here </a>and details of the hearing at <a href="https&#58;//www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/a-national-tragedy-covid-19-in-the-nations-nursing-homes">https&#58;//www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/a-national-tragedy-covid-19-in-the-nations-nursing-homes.</a></p>2021-03-17T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/capitol_nighttime.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />PolicyPatrick ConnoleThe Care For Our Seniors Act offers a comprehensive approach to how Congress and other policymakers can prioritize long term care.