Long Term Care Industry Urges HHS to Provide Extension for Provider Relief Fund Reporting

COVID-19; Provider Relief Fund

Long term care facilities have been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic from the very beginning. To help fight the virus, nursing homes and assisted living communities have received approximately $14 billion of the $178 billion in the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) established by the CARES Act. 

These federal dollars have gone towards critical resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, hiring additional workers, and providing hero pay and overtime wages. With this significant increase in expenditures, support from the PRF has been essential for long term care providers to maintain operations and keep their doors open. 

PRF recipients must report the to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) how their money was spent and return any unused funds by June 30, 2021. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in April, requesting that the reporting deadline be extended to December 30, 2022. In the letter, AHCA/NCAL explains why an extension is needed: 

  • Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and assisted living communities (ALCs) will experience ongoing higher operating costs while occupancy remains at record lows. The industry is expected to lose $94 billion over a two-year period (2020-2021) due to the skyrocketing costs to fight the pandemic. In 2020, nursing homes spent roughly $30 billion on PPE and additional staffing alone. Many SNFs and ALC providers faced financial struggles even before the pandemic, but the situation is becoming more dire with the industry anticipating record closures.

  • Declining occupancy has compounded financial challenges. SNF occupancy declined by 16.5 percent between January 2020 and January 2021. Occupancy rates for ALCs dropped to a record-low 77.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020. Our research estimates that more than 1,600 SNFs could close in 2021. A recent AHCA/NCAL member survey indicated that 56 percent of ALCs would not be able to maintain operations at current levels an additional 12 months without additional revenue or financial relief.

Members of Congress also recognize the need for an extension. Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL-07) sent a letter to Secretary Becerra specifically regarding long term care, citing the low Medicaid reimbursement rates and pandemic-related financial hardships that have negatively impacted long term care providers. The letter, which was co-signed by more than 50 Democrat and Republican Members of Congress, asked that the reporting deadline be extended to December 2022, and that an additional $10 billion from the PRF be allocated to long term care facilities. Congresswoman Cindy Axne (D-IA-03) and Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA-02) also sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary Becerra with nearly 80 co-signatures, requesting the June 30 deadline be extended for health providers. The American Hospital Association requested an extension until the end of the public health emergency. 

Restaurants have until 2023 to use COVID relief funding, and the federal government should take a similar approach with aid to health care providers. Although we have turned a corner on the pandemic, COVID-related measures, and therefore, costs will continue in the long term. Federal support has been instrumental in helping protect our vulnerable seniors and frontline caregivers. We must continue to rally around them and give them the support they need.

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.