AHCA/NCAL Urges CMS to Reissue Blanket Waiver to Help Temporary Nurse Aides

Tens of thousands of nursing home caregivers stand to lose their job on Friday, October 7

​​WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and other long term care facilities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year, is urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reissue a blanket waiver allowing America’s nursing homes to employ temporary nurse aides during the COVID-19 public health emergency and beyond. 

“Temporary nurse aides stepped up during the pandemic to serve our nation’s seniors in their hour of need, and now they are on pins and needles waiting to hear if they’ll have a job come Friday,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “It’s time to cut the red tape and bring certainty to these heroic caregivers and their residents who have come to rely on them.”

Temporary nurse aides (TNAs) provide companionship and assistance to residents for non-clinical, everyday tasks. CMS ended the section of the 1135 waiver that permitted the employment of TNAs on June 6, giving these TNAs only four months to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), as dictated in statute. However, about half of states are currently experiencing CNA training and/or testing backlogs.

The agency is only allowing short-term exceptions to continue employing TNAs for individual states and facilities that submitted requests and are approved by the agency. As of Monday, four states have had their statewide waiver requests approved and more than 10 states are still waiting to hear from the federal agency regarding their application or for further information from CMS to be able to apply for the waiver.

“It is evident that the temporary nurse aide role has been pivotal and beneficial to our nursing home residents nationwide, not on a case-by-case basis,” said Holly Harmon, RN, LNHA and senior vice president of Quality, Regulatory, and Clinical Services at AHCA/NCAL. “Federal data clearly shows that quality of care for residents remains high when temporary nurse aides are present. Our residents deserve continuity of care from caregivers they know, and these experienced aides deserve adequate time to build a permanent career in long term care.” 

The looming deadline for the employment of TNAs comes as nursing homes grapple with a historic labor crisis. Nursing homes have lost more than 220,000 caregivers​ over the course of the pandemic, which is disproportionately more than any other health care sector, and workforce levels are at a nearly 30-year low.

“At a time when the Administration intends to propose new staffing regulations in nursing homes, it is ironic that they are ending a program that helps address staffing shortages,” continued Parkinson. “We urge policymakers to do the right thing—to reissue a nationwide waiver to keep tens of thousands of caregivers at our residents’ bedside.”