The article below is a top story from this week's ACTION newsletter—Care Providers of Minnesota's weekly newsletter for members. The newsletter focuses on current legislative issues, regulations, long-term care trends, and other Association news. Each Thursday evening, it is delivered to your inbox. To sign up for ACTION, contact Lisa Foss Olson (952-851-2483). To learn more about membership, visit our Become a Member page.

CMS announces new resources & testing mandate

Patti Cullen, CAE
By Patti Cullen, CAE  |  June 24, 2020  |  SNF/NF providers



Late on July 22, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released several new initiatives designed to “protect nursing home residents from coronavirus disease 2019” (COVID-19).

New funding
The US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) will devote $5 billion of the Provider Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to Medicare-certified long term care facilities and state veterans’ homes (“nursing homes”), to build nursing home skills and enhance nursing homes’ response to COVID-19, including enhanced infection control. This funding could be used to address critical needs in nursing homes including hiring additional staff, implementing infection control “mentorship” programs with subject matter experts, increasing testing, and providing additional services, such as technology so residents can connect with their families if they are not able to visit. Nursing homes must participate in the Nursing Home COVID-19 Training (described below) to be qualified to receive this funding. CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are still working on the methodology for distribution of the rest of the $5 billion, and both are asking our national association, American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) for input. They have made clear that their priorities are testing, funding for staffing costs and to address facilities in COVID-19 hotspots.

New COVID-19 Training, Technical Assistance & Support
The Trump administration recently deployed federal Task Force Strike Teams to provide onsite technical assistance and education to nursing homes experiencing outbreaks in an effort to help reduce transmission and the risk of COVID-19 spread among residents. The first deployments took place in 18 nursing homes in Illinois, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas between July 18 and July 20.  The Task Force Strike Teams are composed of clinicians and public health service officials from CMS, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. 

The Task Force Strike Teams went into nursing homes based on data they reported to the CDC that indicated an increase in COVID-19 cases. The teams focused on the four key areas of support, including keeping COVID-19 out of facilities, detecting COVID-19 cases quickly, preventing virus transmission, and managing staff. The goal was to determine what immediate actions nursing homes needed to take to help reduce the spread and risk of COVID-19 among residents, and to better understand what federal, state, and local resources nursing homes need to ensure the health and safety of their residents. 

In addition, CMS, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is rolling out an online, self-paced, on-demand Nursing Home COVID-19 Training focused on infection control and best practices. The training being offered has 23 educational modules and a scenario-based learning modules that include materials on cohorting strategies and using telehealth in nursing homes to assist facilities as they continue to work to mitigate the virus spread in their facilities. The training is a requirement for nursing homes to receive the additional funding from the Provider Relief Fund Program. 
The training will be available to all 15,400 nursing homes nationwide along with specialized technical assistance to nursing homes who have been found to have infection prevention deficiencies in their most recent CMS inspection and had recent COVID-19 cases based upon their data submissions to CDC. A certificate of completion is offered and recognition badges can be downloaded for nursing homes to display on their website.

Testing mandate
Building on the initiative HHS announced two weeks ago, in which rapid point-of-care diagnostic testing devices will be distributed to nursing homes, and the new funding from the Provider Relief Fund, CMS will begin requiring, rather than recommending, that all nursing homes in states with a 5% positivity rate or greater test all nursing home staff each week. (Minnesota is just slightly below this threshold today but creeping up.)  This new staff testing requirement will enhance efforts to keep the virus from entering and spreading through nursing homes by identifying asymptomatic carriers. More than 15,000 testing devices will be deployed over the next few months to help support this mandate. Funds from the Provider Relief Fund can also be used to pay for additional testing of visitors.

Weekly data on high risk nursing homes
Early on during this pandemic, CMS required nursing homes to inform residents, their families and representatives of COVID-19 cases in their nursing homes. Starting in May, CMS and CDC began collecting weekly data on each nursing home including their number of COVID-19 cases. Now that this data collection process has matured, the White House and CMS will release a list of nursing homes with an increase in cases that will be sent to states each week as part of the weekly Governor’s report to ensure states have the information needed to target their support to the highest risk nursing homes.

We obviously have lots of implementation questions from this surprise announcement—as we learn more we will share in upcoming messages and member webinars!

Patti Cullen, CAE  |  President/CEO  |   pcullen@careproviders.org  |  952-851-2487



 



About Care Providers of Minnesota

Care Providers of Minnesota is a non-profit membership association with the mission to Empower Members to Performance Excellence. Our 900+ members across Minnesota represent non-profit and for-profit organizations providing services along the full spectrum of post-acute care and long-term services and support. We are the state affiliate for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, and with our national partners we provide solutions for quality care.


Learn more



Become a Member

As a member of Care Providers of Minnesota, you will join with fellow professionals across the state who understand the importance of working together to the benefit of the entire long-term care profession. The strength of our membership has established our place as one of the state’s leading trade associations.


Learn more