A leading long-term care industry advocate has asked the Department of Health and Human Services to extend the COVID-19 public health emergency, which is due to end Jan. 16.
The ongoing omicron surge and likelihood of further SARS-CoV-2 mutations will leave vulnerable populations such as long-term care residents at risk, Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra last week.
Parkinson encouraged Becerra to maintain the PHE’s Section 1135 and Section 1812(f) waivers; enhanced Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) to states; and continue to allow certain state Medicaid policy flexibilities, such as the waiver for Medicaid redeterminations.
In particular, he emphasized the need to prioritize the industry for access to COVID-19 testing and treatments.
Long-term care operators are competing on the open market for testing supplies, Parkinson added. They also must navigate a “cumbersome” process to access treatments that has resulted in risky delays on lifesaving medications for those who are most vulnerable to severe illness, he wrote.
He proposed the establishment of a separate process for long-term care pharmacies to order treatments directly. In addition, increasing the availability of testing “would help our settings identify the virus quickly and save precious lives,” he wrote.
“With the omicron variant causing the largest surge of COVID-19 cases across the country ever, now is not the time to let crucial supports and flexibilities necessary to combat the virus end,” he said.