AHCA/NCAL Urges HHS To Release Remainder Of Provider Relief Fund To Long Term Care Facilities

COVID-19; Advocacy; Provider Relief Fund

For the past 17 months, nursing homes and assisted living communities have been doing everything they can for their residents and staff. From increased infection control practices and additional hands-on care, to stepping in as loved ones for residents who could not see their families, providers have gone above and beyond. But with the Delta variant causing a nationwide surge in community cases, the pandemic is far from over – and long term care facilities need ongoing support to continue the fight.

AHCA/NCAL sent a letter​ to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging Secretary Xavier Becerra to release the remainder of the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) to long term care facilities. Nursing homes have received $13 billion of the $178 billion of the PRF so far, which 92 percent​ of nursing homes found helpful during the pandemic. Meanwhile, assisted living communities have received approximately $1 billion. There is still approximately $44 billion left in the fund that has not yet been distributed, and no aid has been delivered to providers in 2021. 

In the letter to HHS, Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), said:

“As this pandemic continues to ravage the country, widespread financial challenges loom over many long term care facilities. These challenges are a result of skyrocketing labor costs due to a challenging labor market combined with ongoing declines in patient census due to both demand and public health precautions. When these challenges are combined with pre-existing Medicaid underfunding the need for support from the Provider Relief Fund becomes paramount …

​“We reiterate our ask that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) dedicate $13 [billion] from the Provider Relief and Rural Health Fund to long term care providers. I encourage you to release Phase 4 and additional Provider Relief funds immediately. This will provide continued aid to the most vulnerable patients in the US healthcare system.”

The ongoing cost of fighting the pandemic has taken a toll on facilities that have long struggled financially due to chronic Medicaid underfunding. In 2020 alone, facilities spent $30 billion on personal protective equipment and staffing, and AHCA/NCAL estimates that providers will spend another $30 billion in 2021. These additional costs have put facilities on shoestring budgets, and some are struggling to stay afloat. In fact, nearly 2,000 nursing homes are projected to close over the course of the pandemic if additional economic support is not provided. 

As providers continue to work around the clock to protect their residents and staff, lawmakers must prioritize the long term care sector. Nursing homes and assisted living communities have been at the epicenter of the pandemic since the very beginning, and we must protect our most vulnerable citizens and health care heroes on the frontlines. HHS must release the remainder of the PRF so providers have the resources necessary to combat COVID-19. 

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org​.