The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year, warned Congress today that if it doesn’t pass another COVID funding package public health agencies and health care providers could find themselves less than completely prepared heading into the cold and flu season, as well as underfunded to handle another major spike in COVID-19 cases.
With 70% of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund provided by the CARES Act back in April already distributed and remaining funds likely to be allocated by early October, health care providers, including long-term care facilities, will need additional funds to continue their response to the COVID pandemic heading into the cold and flu season, which provides new challenges.
Michael T. Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist recently pointed out the challenges with the upcoming flu and cold season: “I think we’re just in the beginning of what’s going to be a marked increase in cases in the fall. And it won’t be just a testing artifact, either. This is real.” Further complicating the flu and cold season ahead is the fact that COVID cases are rising as CNBC reported, “Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are beginning to rebound following weeks of reported declines and warnings from top U.S. health officials that the country could be vulnerable to fresh outbreaks coinciding with the forthcoming flu season.”
Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), stated that Congress needs to end the partisan logjam and prioritize frontline health care workers and residents, particularly vulnerable elderly populations.
“Without replenishing funds for federal and state agencies, health care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living communities, could find themselves less than completely prepared for the challenges of the upcoming cold and flu season, which could inevitably result in an uptick in new COVID cases,” Parkinson said. “With the cold and flu season adding a real complication to the ongoing COVID pandemic response, the need for extra testing, personal protective equipment and staffing will need to be met in order to keep caregivers and residents safe.”
Parkinson is urging Congress to provide an additional $100 billion for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Provider Relief Fund, which is accessible for all health care providers impacted by COVID-19. A sizeable portion of the fund should be dedicated to helping nursing homes and assisted living communities acquire resources associated with protecting vulnerable residents and staff from the virus, including constant testing, PPE and staff support.
“Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. will repeat the same mistakes made during the initial outbreak last spring and the major spike over the summer. We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living communities by passing another COVID funding package before they leave town for the elections.”
For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org/coronavirus.