The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, is announcing $5 billion in funding from the next CARES Act-authorized nursing home Provider Relief Fund distribution.
“By linking these funds to performance in controlling COVID-19, we are providing powerful tools and incentives for nursing homes to better protect their residents from the virus,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.
This effort draws upon the diverse capabilities and expertise across HHS, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which will oversee the implementation of specialized learning networks.
The distribution will provide approximately $2.5 billion in funding to support increased testing, staffing and personal protective equipment needs.
There will also be funding available for those establishing COVID isolation facilities.
Unlike prior distributions, however, the balance of the $5 billion will be linked to nursing home performance. Almost 40% of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths, totaling tens of thousands of Americans, have been in nursing homes, and the intent of the performance-based distribution will be an attempt to ensure the federal government is paying for better outcomes.
Evaluation of performance will consider the prevalence of the virus in the nursing home’s local geography and will be based on the nursing home’s ability within this context to minimize COVID spread and COVID-related fatalities among its residents.
“We anticipate that linking payment to performance will be an effective means of holding nursing homes accountable, stimulating innovation and encouraging them to reach beyond their own walls for infection control expertise and support,” said Thomas Engels, administrator of HRSA.
“It’s critical to expand the use of proven safety practices that can benefit nursing home residents and staff members, and help save lives,” said AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna. “AHRQ is committed to developing evidence on what works to improve care and partnering with nursing homes and other health systems to make sure that evidence is understood and used.”
HRSA expects the initial $2.5 billion nursing home distribution to occur in mid-August. This will be followed by additional performance-based distributions throughout the fall.