(Alexandria, Va.) – Argentum said the way in which the Biden Administration is determining COVID relief payments for assisted living communities is unconscionable, amounting to a slap in the face to the millions of those who call senior living communities home and the caregivers who have risked their lives to protect residents throughout the long and enduring pandemic.
One day after the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) said it is distributing $9 billion in Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 payments for healthcare providers harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a closer look at the methodology for assessing payments for assisted living communities is grossly low.
“The Biden Administration has had ample opportunity and the resources provided by Congress to do the right thing and prioritize senior living for COVID relief dollars,” said James Balda, president and CEO of Argentum. “We strongly believe that the Administration is not listening to the needs of seniors, nor the results of national polls which show widespread support across party lines for supporting senior living with adequate COVID relief.”
A recent poll conducted by ReconMR (Reconnaissance Market Research) said 86% of those asked believe the Biden Administration should target COVID-19 relief funding for senior living communities.
“But, not only has HHS/HRSA not targeted relief for those caring for the aging and chronically ill who live in senior living communities, it is lowballing the payments that will be made, effectively using a methodology that pays out only 20% to account for the COVID-related losses for providers,” Balda said.
In total, Argentum estimates senior living caregivers will have lost $30 billion during the pandemic, incurring massive costs for extra staffing needs, supplies and equipment, reconfigured building space and infrastructure, and lost revenue from restricting new occupants from moving in.
Balda stressed that the pandemic is not over, pointing to a new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis showing that “breakthrough” hospitalizations involving COVID-19 among people who are fully vaccinated most often affect older adults and people with other chronic health conditions. The average age of residents in assisted living is 85.
“We are beyond the point of scratching our heads at how HHS/HRSA is treating our concerns and what appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the needs of the long-term care continuum throughout this crisis. We want corrections to what amount to egregious mistakes that will likely result in senior living communities having to close unless they receive equitable federal relief,” Balda said.
For months, Argentum has urged the Biden Administration to prioritize relief to assisted living providers through a coordinated campaign, “Don’t Leave Assisted Living Behind, Again” (see press release). The campaign underscores the continued disparities in relief and support that has been made available to senior living, and the need to rectify it moving forward, including with the Phase 4 PRF payments.
It began with a letter to President Biden, and subsequent letters have been sent to President Biden on November 3, and on November 22, Argentum sent a letter to President Biden, HHS Secretary Becerra, and HRSA Acting Administrator Espinosa.
Beyond the letters, the campaign includes billboards in key states, banners and yard signs displayed at communities throughout the country, geotargeted ads directed at policymakers in the White House, HHS, and Congress, grassroots and grasstops outreach, and media placements to get the attention of President Biden and congressional leaders.
Argentum is the leading national association exclusively dedicated to supporting companies operating professionally managed, resident-centered senior living communities and the older adults and families they serve. Since 1990, Argentum has advocated for choice, independence, dignity, and quality of life for all older adults.
Argentum member companies operate senior living communities offering assisted living, independent living, continuing care, and memory care services. Along with its state partners, Argentum’s membership represents approximately 75 percent of the senior living industry—an industry with a national economic impact of nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars and responsible for providing over 1.6 million jobs. These numbers will continue to grow as the U.S. population ages.
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