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Association Reacts to Biden Administration Call for Vaccine Mandates in Health Care Settings<p>Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) made the following statement today regarding the Biden administration’s announcement requiring all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified health care settings, as well as larger businesses, to be vaccinated against COVID-19.</p><p>“We applaud President Biden for expanding COVID-19 vaccination requirements to all Medicare and Medicaid-certified health care settings, as well as larger businesses. This will help prevent unvaccinated nursing home staff from looking for new lines of work, alleviating some of the staffing challenges too many long term care facilities are currently facing. </p><p>“Nearly 4,000 providers expressed their concerns about a federal mandate only for nursing home staff, and we appreciate the administration listening to those concerns and applying this policy more broadly.<br>&#160;<br>“This vaccine policy will also help protect our nation’s most vulnerable, who often interact with a variety of health care professionals on a regular basis. We support the administration’s efforts to get more people vaccinated, and we look forward to working with them on finding additional solutions that will help us address this unprecedented situation.&quot;​</p>2021-09-09T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/0520_news3.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />Policy;COVID-19Joanne EricksonThe policy may help slow unvaccinated staff from seeking other lines of work, Parkinson said.
Growing Number of Senators Urge HHS To Distribute Provider Relief Fund Resources<p>Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release the remainder of the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) to health care providers—including nursing homes—as they continue to battle COVID-19. No PRF funding has been distributed to the health care sector this year, even as the pandemic lingers.</p><p>Last week, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) sent a <a href="https&#58;//www.blunt.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/prf_letter_9-2-21.pdf">letter </a>to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, noting that it has been 11 months since the last PRF distribution was announced&#58;</p><p>“The nation is currently experiencing the ‘fourth wave’ of COVID-19 infections, with hospitals and health care providers around the country stretched to breaking points not seen since the earliest days of the pandemic. Some states have asked hospitals to stop elective procedures, others lack health care staffing resources. As many hospitals run out of bed space and staffing resources wear thin, facilities located in COVID-19 hotspots are diverting acute care patients requiring non-COVID-related procedures out of state. Additionally, intensive care unit beds are at capacity in many regions, and nursing home infections have increased once again after a June low …</p><p>“It has been 11 months since the last PRF distribution was announced. We believe it is imperative for the Administration to continue to fight the pandemic with all available means, including by swiftly disbursing PRF funds to providers buckling under the weight of surging COVID-19 cases.”</p><p>A bipartisan group of more than 40 U.S. senators, led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), also sent a <a href="https&#58;//www.collins.senate.gov/sites/default/files/Collins-Shaheen%20PRF%20Letter%202021-08-26.pdf">letter </a>to Secretary Becerra, asking that the funding in the PRF be distributed right away so that health care providers can weather the financial challenges of the pandemic&#58;</p><p>“Over the course of the pandemic, Congress has appropriated $178 billion for the Provider Relief Fund as well as an additional $8.5 billion for rural providers. Hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living providers, health clinics, and other health care providers need these funds to help weather the financial difficulties created by the pandemic. In rural areas in particular, the PRF has prevented facilities that struggled before and during the pandemic from falling into bankruptcy or closing entirely …</p><p>“On July 19, the Government Accountability Office reported that about 25 percent of Provider Relief Fund appropriations and all of the rural provider funding remained unobligated as of May 31, 2021 … GAO recommended that HHS communicate information about, and facilitate oversight of, the department’s use of COVID-19 relief funds by providing projected time frames for its planned distributions in the spend plans it submits to Congress.</p><p>“We fully agree with GAO’s assessment and ask that HHS announce and implement its plans for additional disbursement of provider relief funds. As the health care provider community continues to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic, this funding should be released without any further delay.”</p><p>The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) have <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/News-and-Communications/Fact-Sheets/Letters/Letter-HHS-PRF-8.9.21.pdf">stressed to HHS </a>that immediate aid from the PRF is critical, as long term care facilities continue to face a severe economic crisis due to chronic Medicaid underfunding and ongoing pandemic-related costs. 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, AHCA/NCAL said.</p>2021-09-08T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/capitol_steps.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />COVID-19;PolicyJoanne EricksonA “fourth wave” of COVID-19 infections across the country has stretched providers to the breaking point, senators tell agency.
Senators Call for HHS to Release Resources From Provider Relief Fund <p>A bipartisan group of more than 40 U.S. senators signed a <a href="https&#58;//www.collins.senate.gov/sites/default/files/Collins-Shaheen%20PRF%20Letter%202021-08-26.pdf">letter </a>sent to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, asking the department to release funding from the Provider Relief Fund to health care providers, including nursing homes and assisted living communities. The letter was led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). In the letter, the senators wrote&#58; </p><p>“Over the course of the pandemic, Congress has appropriated $178 billion for the Provider Relief Fund [PRF] as well as an additional $8.5 billion for rural providers. Hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living providers, health clinics, and other health care providers need these funds to help weather the financial difficulties created by the pandemic. In rural areas in particular, the PRF has prevented facilities that struggled before and during the pandemic from falling into bankruptcy or closing entirely …</p><p>“On July 19, the Government Accountability Office [GAO] reported that about 25 percent of Provider Relief Fund appropriations and all of the rural provider funding remained unobligated as of May 31, 2021 … GAO recommended that HHS communicate information about, and facilitate oversight of, the department’s use of COVID-19 relief funds by providing projected time frames for its planned distributions in the spend plans it submits to Congress.</p><p>“We fully agree with GAO’s assessment and ask that HHS announce and implement its plans for additional disbursement of provider relief funds. As the health care provider community continues to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic, this funding should be released without any further delay.”</p><p>The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) also sent a <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/News-and-Communications/Fact-Sheets/Letters/Letter-HHS-PRF-8.9.21.pdf">letter </a>to Secretary Becerra earlier this month to make the same request. No resources have been distributed to health care providers yet this year.</p><p>Additional federal funding cannot come soon enough, the association said. Long term care facilities are facing a severe economic crisis due to chronic Medicaid underfunding and the ongoing costs associated with fighting COVID-19. Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over, and dedicating extensive resources on personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, and staffing will remain constant for the foreseeable future, the letter said.</p><p>“In 2020, nursing homes spent an estimated $30 billion on PPE and additional staffing alone, and these additional costs are expected to continue in 2021 as the Delta variant continues to spread across the country,” the AHCA/NCAL letter said. <br></p>2021-08-30T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/capitol_flowers.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />Policy;COVID-19Joanne EricksonNo resources have been distributed to health care providers yet this year.
FDA Gives Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Full Approval<p>The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.&#160; </p><p>According to <a href="https&#58;//www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-covid-19-vaccine">FDA’s announcement,</a> the vaccine will “now be marketed as Comirnaty, for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.”</p><p>The approval means that this vaccine meets the highest safety and efficacy standards and is a big step in the fight against COVID-19. </p><p>Long term care providers have been working tirelessly over the past 18 months to protect staff and highly vulnerable residents. The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living undertook the <a href="https&#58;//getvaccinated.us/">#GetVaccinated </a>campaign earlier this year to encourage staff and residents to get one of the three available vaccines. Today’s announcement should provide additional reassurance that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective.</p><p>For more information on this as well as the recently announced<a href="https&#58;//www.hhs.gov/about/news/2021/08/18/joint-statement-hhs-public-health-and-medical-experts-covid-19-booster-shots.html"> booster shot </a>plan, see <a href="https&#58;//www.ahcancal.org/News-and-Communications/Blog/Pages/COVID-19-Vaccine-Boosters-vs--Additional-Doses-for-Immunocompromised.aspx">COVID-19 Vaccine&#58; Boosters vs. Additional Doses for Immunocompromised. </a><br></p>2021-08-23T04:00:00Z<img alt="" src="/Breaking-News/PublishingImages/740%20x%20740/architecture_5.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />Policy;COVID-19Joanne EricksonThe vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization, the agency said.