Essential workers on the frontline of the coronavirus, like those in nursing homes, could see a pay increase of up to $25,000 under a federal lawmaker’s proposal. 

Senate Democrats unveiled the “Heroes Fund” proposal earlier this week. The proposal, described as a pandemic premium pay plan, aims to reward, retain and recruit those on the frontline of the pandemic.

Under the plan, workers would see a premium pay increase of up to $25,000, or a raise of $13 per hour from the start of the pandemic until the end of 2020. It also calls for a $15,000 incentive for essential worker recruitment efforts. 

“Workers in hospitals and nursing homes, in the service sector and public safety, and throughout our economy are risking their lives during this public health emergency to keep our citizens safe, and their paychecks should reflect that. Frontline workers also need proper protection from the virus at work,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said in a statement.

The pay increases would apply to frontline workers earning less than $200,000 per year. It proposes a pay increase of $5,000 for those who earn more than that. 

“The next coronavirus-response package Congress passes must honor the dignity of their work by including this Pandemic Premium Pay proposal to compensate our frontline heroes and mandatory safety requirements to keep them safe on the job,” Brown added. 

CMS allows nurse practitioners to do more at nursing homes

Nurse practitioners will be allowed to conduct certain medical exams for Medicare patients at nursing homes for the first time under a new policy announced Thursday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

“It’s all hands on deck during this crisis. All frontline medical professionals need to be able to work at the highest level they were trained for,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said.

The greater flexibility is part of a campaign to broaden clinical capacities upstream and downstream during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to free up hospitals’ and physicians’ capacities in particular. 

The new temporary policy will allow providers to practice at the top of their license across state lines. Nurse practitioners, for example, may be able to test skilled nursing patients for conditions that may or may not be coronavirus-related. And physicians can make treatment decisions at out-of-state rural hospitals. 

Changes disclosed Thursday are in addition to other waivers announced March 30, including relaxation of nurse aide requirements. They apply immediately and address supervision, licensure and certification, and other limitations in various healthcare settings.

In other coronavirus related news: 

  • CMS has freed providers entirely from having to submit staffing data through the Payroll-Based Journal system for the first quarter of the year (1/1/20 – 3/31/20). There has been no word as to how long the submission waiver will be in effect. Providers should continue to collect their staffing data, however, since that requirement has not been waived.
  • CMS has granted speech-language pathologists, physical therapists and occupational therapists permission to evaluate and treat Medicare Part A patients in skilled nursing facilities using audiovisual devices such as smartphones and tablets. The services would not be considered telemedicine and would be billed the same as in-person services when performed in the same building as the patient.
  • CMS quickly approves $51B in advance payments: CMS announced Thursday that it had approved more than 21,000 of 32,000 requests — totaling more than $51 billion — for accelerated or advance Medicare payments. The totals include requests by nursing homes and other frontline Medicare providers over just a one-week period.
  • Wish lists for a fourth COVID-19 relief bill from Congress are popping up all over the country. Lutheran Services in America President and CEO Charlotte Haberaecker told members of Congress in a letter Wednesday, for example, that large nonprofit health and human services organizations need more than $102 billion in relief
  • And on the brighter side of this crisis, “messages of hope and inspiration are still on the menu,” even if long-term care residents can’t be together with families for Passover Seder or an Easter dinner, said said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, on Thursday.

A few new traditions that have been forged this year include: Celebrating Easter via Technology (and Eggs) at Logan Manor Community Health in Logan, KS; Synchronizing the Seder at New Jewish Home Family in Rockleigh, NJ; an Easter Golf Cart Parade at Paradise Valley Estates in Fairfield, CA; and Celebrating in Isolation, But Far from Alone at the Los Angeles Jewish Home in Los Angeles.