The Department of Health and Human Services has announced the second round of performance payments for nursing homes, worth $523 million, to be distributed to over 9,000 facilities.
Qualifying nursing homes will begin receiving payments on December 9 for successfully reducing COVID-19 related infections and deaths between September and October.
Recipients may use the funds to gather more personal protective equipment or to help other efforts in slowing the spread of COVID-19, HHS said in its announcement.
WHAT'S THE IMPACT
During the two months of this round of incentive payments, HHS found that 69% of the 13,251 eligible nursing homes met the infection control criteria.
This round also saw 68% of the eligible nursing homes meeting the mortality rate criteria.
Although fewer facilities qualified than the first round, which had an overall qualifying rate of 76%, these nursing homes saw 3,900 fewer infections relative to the rates seen in the communities they serve.
There will be a total of five performance payment rounds for nursing homes as a way for HHS to support these care settings for the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on them.
THE LARGER TREND
HHS initially announced in August that it would distribute $5 billion in additional Provider Relief Fund (PRF) payments to nursing homes – $2 billion of which would be dedicated for the performance payment program.
The department released the first round of payments in October worth $333 million to more than 10,000 nursing homes.
These incentive payments are in addition to the $15 billion already distributed to nursing homes in the targeted and general distributions of the PRF.
Beyond the financial support the government has provided nursing homes during the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have accepted the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' recommendation to prioritize residents of long-term care facilities, along with healthcare personnel, in the first round of COVID-19 distributions.
The federal government is looking to have a COVID-19 vaccine ready for distribution to states and federal agencies by mid-December.
Moderna and Pfizer are ready to go, both having filed for emergency use authorization with the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has scheduled a meeting of its vaccine advisory committee to review the Pfizer vaccine on December 10 and the Moderna vaccine on December 17.
The U.K. began its vaccine distribution this week after the Pfizer candidate received emergency use authorization last week.
ON THE RECORD
"As we approach the rollout of safe and effective vaccines for our most vulnerable, we continue the innovative program we created this year to incentivize and assist nursing homes in battling COVID-19 and applying the right infection control practices," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. "This half a billion dollars in incentive payments will reward nursing homes that have shown results in their tireless work to keep their residents safe from the virus."
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