The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), recently announced the details of a $2 billion Provider Relief Fund (PRF) performance-based incentive payment distribution to nursing homes.
This distribution is the latest update in the previously announced $5 billion in planned support to nursing homes grappling with the impact of COVID-19. Last week, HHS announced it had delivered an additional $2.5 billion in payments to nursing homes to help with upfront COVID-19-related expenses for testing, staffing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs. Other resources are also being dedicated to support training, mentorship and safety improvements in nursing homes.
“The Trump Administration has focused resources throughout our response on protecting the most vulnerable, including older Americans in nursing homes,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “By tying these new funds for nursing homes to outcomes, while providing the support they need to improve quality and infection control, we will help support quality care, slow the spread of the virus, and save lives.”
Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by this pandemic. By tying continued relief payments to patient outcomes, the Trump Administration is demonstrating its commitment to preserving the lives and safety of America’s seniors, who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Nursing homes will not have to apply to receive a share of this $2 billion incentive payment allocation; HHS will be measuring nursing home performance through required nursing home data submissions and distributing payments based on these data.
In order to qualify for payments under the incentive program, a facility must have an active state certification as a nursing home or skilled nursing facility (SNF) and receive reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). HHS will administer quality checks on nursing home certification status through the Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) to identify and remove facilities that have a terminated, expired, or revoked certification or enrollment.
Facilities must also report to at least one of three data sources that will be used to establish eligibility and collect necessary provider data to inform payment: Certification and Survey Provider Enhanced Reports (CASPER), Nursing Home Compare (NHC), and Provider of Services (POS).
Performance and Payment Cycle
The incentive payment program is scheduled to be divided into four performance periods (September, October, November, December), lasting a month each with $500 million available to nursing homes in each period. All nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities meeting the previously noted qualifications will be eligible for each of the four performance periods.
Nursing homes will be assessed based on a full month’s worth of the aforementioned data submissions, which will then undergo additional HHS scrutiny and auditing before payments are issued the following month, after the prior month’s performance period.
Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS will measure nursing homes against a baseline level of infection in the community where a given facility is located. CDC’s Community Profile Reports (CPRs) include county-level information on total confirmed and/or suspected COVID-19 infections per capita, as well as information on COVID-19 test positivity. Against this baseline, facilities will have their performance measured on two outcomes:
- Ability to keep new COVID infection rates low among residents.
- Ability to keep COVID mortality low among residents.
To measure facility COVID-19 infection and mortality rates, the incentive program will utilize data from the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) LTCF COVID-19 module. CMS issued guidance in early May requiring that certified nursing facilities submit data to the NHSN COVID-19 Module. Data from this module will be used to assess nursing home performance and determine incentive payments.
HHS will continue to provide more updates as it works to assist providers in slowing the spread of infection while simultaneously offering financial support to these frontline heroes combating the pandemic.
Funding for this nursing home incentive effort was made possible from the $175 billion Provider Relief program funded through the bipartisan CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.
Incentive payments will be subject to the same Terms and Conditions applicable to the initial infection control payments announced last week (available here).
For updates and to learn more about the Provider Relief Program, visit: hhs.gov/providerrelief.
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