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Connecticut nursing homes to get $31.2 million in additional COVID-19 aid

The state's nursing homes have seen more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases and close to 2,000 deaths.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

Connecticut nursing homes will receive $31.2 million in additional COVID-19 response funds, Governor Ned Lamont announced on Wednesday.

The payments are being delivered through increased payments that are retroactive to November and prospective through February, the announcement said.

The first phase of funding will be equivalent to a 10% Medicaid rate increase for November and December 2020 using $20.8 million of funding from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. The second phase is a 5% Medicaid rate increase totaling approximately $5.2 million per month for the months of January and February 2021, according to the release.

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Nursing homes will receive the financial support across two distribution phases – one beginning immediately for the period covering November and December 2020, and the second to be issued for the period covering January and February 2021.

With this support, the state aims to give support to nursing homes as they provide care to some of Connecticut's most vulnerable individuals, while also increasing the probability that the nursing homes will qualify for the remaining cycles of federal Provider Relief Fund financial assistance that are being distributed on the basis of infection and mortality rates.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

The financial support package includes roughly $31.2 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund payments and Medicaid rate increases for nursing homes; deferred recovery of $23.4 million in previously issued interim payments until fiscal year 2022; continued funding of the COVID-19 recovery and alternate COVID recovery facilities; and assistance to nursing homes that have had difficulty paying the nursing home user fees that were due for the quarter ending March 31, 2020.

To qualify for the first round of aid, nursing homes must be in compliance with Connecticut Department of Public Health's infection control standards, perform supplemental antigen testing, participate in the department's provision of incentive payments for direct care staff, and initiate the process of eliminating rooms with three or more beds.

For the second round, nursing homes must comply with all of the phase one requirements in addition to creating incentive payments to indirect care staff, using compensation arrangements to incentivize direct care staff to work in only one facility, documenting COVID-19 related costs, increasing the hours of infection preventionists and shift coaches to mitigate infection spread and adhering to vaccine implementation plans that are in effect.

THE LARGER TREND

As of December 30, Connecticut has had more than 183,000 cases of COVID-19, nearly 6,000 deaths and currently has more than 1,100 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, according to the state's daily data report.

The state's nursing homes have seen more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases and close to 2,000 deaths, according to Yale University's COVID-19 data map.

After some doubts were cast over the future of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, President Donald Trump signed the bill on December 27.

With the bill, providers get $3 billion in support, more flexibility in provider relief fund reporting requirements, a temporary pause of the MACRA alternative payment model payment incentive thresholds for two years, the elimination of Medicaid payment cuts for three years and more. Additionally, there is $20 billion for vaccine distribution, a $1.25 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health for a total budget of $42.9 billion, and an additional $125 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for a total of $7.9 billion.

A portion of the nation's nursing homes will also be receiving the second round of performance payments for nursing homes, worth $523 million, from the Department of Health and Human Services.

ON THE RECORD

"As we are dealing with a resurgence of the coronavirus statewide, we have taken action to mitigate a repeat of the first occurrence and reduce infections and spread in our nursing homes," Governor Lamont said. "To that end, we are providing increased payments and a deferral on the recoupment of interim payments to provide more financial security as the costs of combating the virus remain high and it is essential we give the facilities the resources they need. At the same time, we are strengthening best practices in infection control. I commend our state agencies, including the Department of Public Health, the Department of Social Services, and the Office of Policy and Management, for outstanding collaborative work in bringing this initiative forward."

Twitter: @HackettMallory
Email the writer: mhackett@himss.org