Delgado Urges HHS to Distribute Overdue Funding to Nursing Homes & Long-Term Care Facilities

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From the office of Representative Antonio Delgado:

RHINEBECK, NY – U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) is part of a multi-Member effort calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release billions of dollars in funding to long-term care facilities after repeated delays, as well as to provide answers to Congress about the reasons and decision-making behind these delays. Nursing home residents are at high risk of infection and death from COVID-19. Currently, there have been more than 7,700 outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country since the pandemic began.

“The outbreaks at nursing homes across upstate New York and our country are heartbreaking, and these funding delays are unacceptable,” said Rep. Delgado. “Every single day that our long term care facilities don’t get the funds approved by Congress is dangerous to the health and safety of those most vulnerable to the virus. The HHS Secretary must respond for these funding delays as soon as possible.”

In their letter, Delgado and 18 of his colleagues called on HHS Secretary Alex Azar to respond to this crisis by immediately releasing billions of dollars in federal funding already approved by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. Together, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provided $175 billion for healthcare providers that provide diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with COVID-19. However, U.S. long-term care facilities have only received about $3 billion in federal assistance since these bills were signed into law.

“We urge you to release PHSS funds appropriated by the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection and Health Care Enhancement Act to long-term care facilities as soon as possible,” said the letter. “Additional financial support is essential to protecting the vulnerable populations these facilities serve.”

In the letter to Secretary Azar, Delgado and his colleagues also called for HHS to brief Congress about the causes of unacceptable funding delays. The letter continues, “We request a Congressional briefing from HHS about the reasons for the delay and an overview of the consultative process that informed any eventual distributive methodology for long-term care providers. We are deeply troubled and frustrated by the delays and the lack of clarity around the agency’s decision-making processes to date.”

The letter was signed by U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), Terri A. Sewell (AL-07), Paul D. Tonko (NY-20), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Bill Foster (IL-11), Cindy Axne (IA-03), John B. Larson (CT-01), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (MA-04), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Mike Doyle (PA-18), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Darren Soto (FL-09), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), and William R. Keating (MA-09).

The full text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Secretary Azar,

We write to express our concern and frustration that long-term care facilities have not received sufficient financial support from the $175 billion Congress has appropriated to the Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) Fund over the past six weeks. Long-term care facilities are on the front lines of caring for the most vulnerable people in our communities, and it is unacceptable that financial support for them has been so delayed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes that nursing home residents are at particularly high risk of infection and death from COVID-19. Since the start of the outbreak, media reports suggest that more than 25,000 long-term care residents and workers have died of COVID-19 – one-third of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. In central Virginia, 51 residents died in one facility – nearly a third of that facility’s total population. There are currently 7,700 outbreaks in facilities across the country, including 160 in Virginia. Without federal action, these communities could experience tragedies on the scale of what central Virginia has already endured.

Long-term care facilities are struggling to contain these outbreaks and keep their residents and workers safe. Additional financial resources would allow facilities to purchase more personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, add additional staffers, and improve access to testing for residents and workers—which is the foundation of any containment strategy.

We are disappointed that your department has used methodologies that minimize long-term care facilities’ awards when distributing funds from the more than $70 billion allocated to date. Congress was clear in both the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection and Health Care Enhancement Act that “eligible health care providers” for distributions from the PHSS Fund include both “Medicare and Medicaid suppliers and providers.” As you know, nursing homes are disproportionately dependent on Medicaid for reimbursement, so a methodology based on percentage of total patient revenue minimizes their awards. Such a methodology also limits awards to assisted living facilities, which offer limited reimbursable medical services.

We urge you to release PHSS funds appropriated by the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection and Health Care Enhancement Act to long-term care facilities as soon as possible. Additional financial support is essential to protecting the vulnerable populations these facilities serve.

Additionally, we request a Congressional briefing from HHS about the reasons for the delay and an overview of the consultative process that informed any eventual distributive methodology for long-term care providers. We are deeply troubled and frustrated by the delays and the lack of clarity around the agency’s decision-making processes to date.

The staff and residents in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities around the country desperately need your immediate and ongoing support. Ensuring that this funding is delivered to these providers promptly is critical to their primary role in flattening the curve of this virus and protecting our nation’s seniors and most vulnerable. We look forward to continuing to work with you to keep these residents safe from COVID-19.

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