More than two-thirds of eligible nursing homes will receive incentive payments this week for successfully reducing COVID-related infections and deaths between September and October. 

The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced that it will distribute $523 million in performance payments to about 9,200 nursing homes starting Wednesday. This is the second round of payments to facilities under the performance-based payment program that aims to keep nursing home COVID-19 rates lower than the surrounding communities they serve. 

HHS found that 69% of eligible facilities met infection control criteria for the incentive program, while 68% met the mortality criteria during this round. The agency added that the collective efforts of these nursing homes resulted in about 3,900 fewer infections relative to the rates seen in the communities where they exist. 

“This is a testament to the perseverance and commitment of nursing homes to ensuring residents’ well-being under tremendously challenging circumstances,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in a statement. 

“Staff nationwide are pursuing infection control-and-prevention training in numerous ways, including by participating in collaborative learning through Project ECHO’s Nursing Home Initiative as well as by taking CMS-provided modules. With these much-needed supports, HHS is acknowledging that additional resources are needed to do battle,” she added. 

The incentive program was initially announced in August and gauges providers on two measured outcomes: COVID-19 infection rates and mortality rates. HHS distributed $333 million to more than 10,000 nursing homes during the first round of performance payments. 

“As we approach the rollout of safe and effective vaccines for our most vulnerable, we continue the innovative program we created this year to incentivize and assist nursing homes in battling COVID-19 and applying the right infection control practices,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement

“This half a billion dollars in incentive payments will reward nursing homes that have shown results in their tireless work to keep their residents safe from the virus,” he added.