CMS Alters Guidelines For COVID-19 Testing At Nursing Homes

The agency tweaked its color-coded system to account for community spread of the virus. Other nursing home news is on rapid-result testing, nursing home volumes and COVID training.

Modern Healthcare:
CMS Changes Nursing Home Testing Guidance Over Rural Concerns

Nursing homes will face new COVID-19 testing guidelines based on their community spread, CMS said Tuesday. The agency revised its facility staff testing standards to account for community spread in its color-coded system. If a county has 20 or fewer tests over 14 days, it will be considered green. Counties with fewer than 500 tests, fewer than 2,000 tests per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate above 10% over 14 days also will be considered green. Previously, counties meeting those standards would have been considered yellow. (Christ, 9/29)

More on Medicare —

Congress May Limit Medicare Part B Premium Increase For 2021

Congress may be poised to head off a potential premium spike for some Medicare beneficiaries. As part of a short-term government funding bill passed by the House last week and expected to be considered by the Senate on Wednesday, any increase in Medicare Part B premiums for 2021 would be capped. While it’s still uncertain what the standard premium would be for 2021 — it is based on an actuarial formula and typically revealed in early November for the next year — estimates have proved tricky this year due to economic upheaval from the coronavirus pandemic. (O’Brien, 9/29)

In other nursing home news —

The New York Times:
Federal Program To Supply Coronavirus Tests To Nursing Homes Led To Unexpected Costs And ‘Testing Hell’ 

After months of enduring a dearth of protective medical gear and staggering death tolls from the coronavirus pandemic, nursing home operators and employees across the United States experienced something close to elation as rapid-result test machines paid for by the federal government began arriving last month at 14,000 residential facilities that serve the elderly. The hand-held testing devices, which spit out results in as little as 15 minutes, were intended to quickly diagnose and isolate patients, and alter the deadly calculus of a contagion that has taken the lives of 77,000 nursing home residents and workers, more than 40 percent of the nation’s fatalities from Covid-19. (9/30)

Modern Healthcare:
Nursing Home Volumes Taking Longer To Recover Than Home Health

Even as home health providers had recovered most of the volume lost during the pandemic by July, a new study finds skilled nursing volumes had not seen nearly the same improvement. The analysis by consultancy Avalere Health found the skilled nursing industry suffered a bigger volume hit than home health providers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and patients are taking longer to return to nursing homes. In July, skilled nursing facilities were taking in 34% fewer Medicare fee-for-service patients from hospitals compared with a year earlier. Home health’s volumes from hospital discharges, meanwhile, were down just 1.8% in that time. (Bannow, 9/29)

Modern Healthcare:
AHRQ Creates COVID-19 Training Network For Nursing Homes

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality along with the University of New Mexico’s Project ECHO and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement have partnered to establish a network that will provide training on COVID-19-related safety practices for nursing home employees. The network, dubbed the National Nursing Home COVID Action Network, was established as part of $2 billion in congressional funding HHS received from Congress under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to improve infection control in nursing homes. The network is part of an AHRQ contract valued up to $237 million. (Castellucci, 9/29)

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