Breaking News: Incentive Payments to Nursing Homes Curbing COVID-19 Deaths and Infections

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

Just a few minutes ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced it will distribute approximately $333 million in first round performance payments to over 10,000 nursing homes. These nursing homes are being recognized for demonstrating significant reductions in COVID-19 related infections and deaths between August and September.

“These $333 million in performance payments are going to nursing homes that have maintained safer environments for residents between August and September,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “We’ve provided nursing homes with resources and training to improve infection control, and we’re rapidly providing incentives to those facilities that are making progress in the fight against COVID-19.”

Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by this pandemic. In response, the Trump Administration has employed a number of strategies to protect nursing home residents and slow the spread of COVID-19. In addition to General Distribution funding through the Provider Relief Fund program, HHS dedicated almost $5 billion in targeted funding to nursing homes in May.  HHS then announced another $5 billion opportunity in August. Of this amount, HHS distributed $2.5 billion in early September to help nursing homes with upfront COVID-19-related expenses for testing, staffing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs. Another $2 billion is being used to create an incentive program divided into five performance cycles. This performance-based payment structure will reward nursing homes for keeping new COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among residents lower than the communities they serve, as analyzed against CDC data.

Today, HHS is announcing that in the first round of the incentive program, which compared data from August to September, 10,631 nursing homes, or over 77 percent of the 13,795 eligible, met the infection control criteria. Overall, these nursing homes contributed to 5,000 fewer COVID-19 infections in nursing homes in September than in August. Against both the infection control and mortality criteria, 10,501 nursing homes, or 76 percent, qualified for payments and contributed to 1,200 fewer COVID-19 related nursing home deaths between August and September.

Nursing homes will receive September quality incentive payments next week and will have four more opportunities to receive additional incentive payments.

HHS is encouraged by the promising September results but recognize this virus is dynamic and there is still opportunity for continued improvement. Safeguarding nursing home residents from the perils of this devastating pandemic will remain a top priority for HHS.

The state-by-state breakdown of funds can be viewed here.

The HHS Press Release can be viewed in its entirety here.