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The nation’s two largest nursing home associations sang the praises of Xavier Becerra, who  President-elect Joe Biden has chosen to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

Becerra, who would replace Alex Azar, has served in Congress and is California’s attorney general. He helped pass the Affordable Care Act while in Congress and led the defense of the law in the Supreme Court. Becerra was among the nominees Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris recently unveiled for their health team.

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living on Tuesday said the organization has valued its conversations with Becerra while he’s served in Congress and as attorney general and looks forward to an open dialogue in his new role, once confirmed.

“Given the tremendous tragedy and challenges our profession have faced this year, we hope to work with Attorney General Becerra on ensuring that long term care is regarded as a pivotal part of our health care system and prioritized for ongoing resources in order to battle COVID-19,” AHCA/NCAL said in a statement. 

“When we get through this, we hope to have a national discussion with HHS and other stakeholders about how we can learn from this experience and properly support long term care facilities as we prepare for a rapidly growing elderly population,” the association added. 

Friend of LTC

Katie Smith Sloan, president of LeadingAge, noted to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Monday that while in Congress, Becerra was a friend of long-term care causes, she told 

“He was very supportive of our work in two ways: the CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Support) Act, which was part of the ACA, and he also was a state champion of affordable housing,” she said.

“He understood that looming need out there,” Smith Sloan added, noting that one of LeadingAge’s goals is to have HHS work more closely with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on housing issues.

Recommendations for next term 

In other business, LeadingAge along with the Visiting Nurse Association of America sent a letter to the Biden-Harris transition team that outlines urgent recommendations that would help support the long-term care industry and seniors nationwide. 

Among the urgent actions, the groups requested that Biden immediately renew the public health emergency and extend the time frame for when Provider Relief Funds can be used in his first 30 days in office. 

The groups also requested that, in his first 100 days, Biden establish and fund a national COVID-19 testing program for healthcare workers. and put in place a long-term care workforce commission recommended by the  Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes.

The full letter can be found here.