AHCA Demands HHS Release Remainder of the Provider Relief Fund for SNFs

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) are making another push for the federal government to release the remainder of the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) established by the CARES Act.

This comes at the heels of the organization’s most recent survey, which revealed that only a quarter of nursing homes and assisted living communities are confident they will last another year.

The sector has received approximately $14 billion of the $178 billion in the fund.

Recent data shows that occupancy at nursing homes is recovering, with the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) reporting a jump to 73.2% occupancy for April. The sector still has a ways to go to return to February 2020 levels, when occupancy was sitting at 85.5%.

“The remainder of the funds must be released,” AHCA said in a statement released on Tuesday. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) originally set January 15 as the opening date for its Provider Relief Fund reporting portal, with the first deadline set a month later on February 15, but that date was repeatedly pushed back.

In June, HHS issued new requirements that changed the availability of PRF funds, eliminating the mandate that all payments be used or returned by June 30.

“Recipients are required to report for each Payment Received Period in which they received one or more payments exceeding, in the aggregate, $10,000 (rather than $10,000 cumulatively across all PRF payments),” the department said in its update.

The PRF portal opened on July 1, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced, as the availability of funds is based on the date the payment was received. Recipients have a 90-day window to complete reporting.

While the amount of government funding left that is headed to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) is not yet clear, the expectation within the industry is that more help from the government is coming.

During a conversation with Senior Housing News this week, LTC Properties (NYSE: LTC) CEO Wendy Simpson said that the real estate investment trust’s operators should be able to survive for the rest of the year. Beyond that, however, the path forward for SNFs remains a little unclear.

“We are cautious about the rest of the year. Our operators indicate that they believe they have enough capital to get to at least the end of the year,” she said during the SHN+ TALK

“We’re not out of the woods, at all, and it might be until 2022-2023 before we can be stable again ,” Simpson said.

Executives at real estate investment trusts (REITs) Sabra Health Care REIT (Nasdaq: SBRA) and CareTrust REIT (Nasdaq: CTRE) speculated that providers can expect $10 billion of remaining CARES Act funds to go to the skilled nursing and senior living sector along with an additional $3 billion of an $8.5 billion rural fund in the American Rescue Plan.

Sabra CEO Rick Matros said its operators, which includes 285 skilled nursing and transitional care properties, had received $230 million in aid from the PRF during a first-quarter earnings call back in May.

A recent analysis by AHCA/NCAL found that nearly 2,000 nursing homes may shut their doors over the course of the pandemic without additional government support.

A resounding 92% of nursing homes said that the PRF has been helpful, though 84% said they are losing revenue due to fewer post-acute patients coming from the hospital.

“The Provider Relief Fund was a lifesaver for many in long-term care,” Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL, said in the statement released Tuesday. “Whether it helped acquire PPE to protect residents and staff from COVID-19 or allowed providers to offer hero pay to workers … we are grateful.”

The top three costs these facilities have incurred due to COVID have been additional pay for staff, hiring additional staff and personal protective equipment (PPE), according to the AHCA.

In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) more than 50 Democrats and Republicans requested an additional $10 billion from the PRF be allocated to long-term care facilities.

“Shortfalls in Medicaid funding forced providers to operate on limited budgets and suffer net losses year after year. Now these problems have been exacerbated due to the pandemic,” the letter said. “Low Medicaid reimbursement rates, coupled with the financial hardships from the pandemic, threaten the viability of the entire LTC sector, particularly in rural areas.”

As SNFs continue to face significant ongoing economic challenges, Parkinson called on the federal government to step up.

“We call on the administration to distribute the remaining aid that was intended for health care providers and help bring stability to our sector,” he said in the statement.

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