HHS Fails to Address Pandemic Relief for Long-Term Care Pharmacies

DATE: November 16, 2020

SCPC Warns Support is Needed to Maintain Patient Care while LTC Facilities Manage Latest COVID Spike and LTC Pharmacies Prepare for Vaccine Distribution

 Washington, DCThe Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC) today expressed disappointment that, despite months of discussions, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has failed to assure reasonable pandemic relief for long-term care (LTC) pharmacies.  Nursing homes and assisted living facilities face an alarming new spike in cases among patients and staff alike, and HHS is relying on LTC pharmacies to prepare for timely vaccine distribution and administration to those patients.

“Failure to provide prompt relief to this vital sector risks catastrophe for vulnerable seniors and the LTC pharmacies that serve them. Patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities once again face an imminent COVID crisis, with cases increasing more than 40% since mid-September and more expected due to community spread,” said SCPC President and CEO, Alan Rosenbloom. “Once again, LTC pharmacies will continue to provide uninterrupted access to prescription drugs and essential pharmacy patient care services while also navigating COVID vaccine distribution hurdles and an alarming COVID spike in LTC facilities which are expected to trigger another drop in revenues.  LTC pharmacy costs have increased 10% and revenues are down by 20% or more due to the pandemic, even before the latest wave of COVID infections hit.  Now more than ever, financial relief is vital to keeping these services readily available.”

The typical LTC facility resident takes 12 prescription medications every day. LTC pharmacies provide direct services to patients and their families, perform medication therapy management and drug regimen reviews, integrate medication therapy into patient care plans, and participate as active members of each patient’s care planning team.  Their services are essential to patient care and quality of life.

In June, HHS determined that pharmacies do not provide patient care and thus would be eligible for only limited relief. But LTC pharmacies do provide patient care.  The Medicare and Medicaid programs require that LTC pharmacies provide patient care and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a branch of HHS, has stated that LTC pharmacy services are “integral to patient care.”

“CMS has acknowledged for years that LTC pharmacies provide patient care, so it is baffling that HHS has not provided adequate relief to ensure continuity of care for our nation’s most at-risk patient population,” Rosenbloom explained. “It makes no sense that HHS has refused to act, and it is frustrating that they have offered no meaningful responses to several SCPC proposals that would provide fair and proportionate relief to LTC pharmacies.  Secretary Azar must act immediately to assure that America’s most vulnerable seniors receive uninterrupted care – including timely access to COVID vaccines – during this crisis.”

While LTC facilities have received upwards of $12 billion from HHS through the Provider Relief Fund, the LTC pharmacies that serve them largely have been overlooked.

“The fate of LTC pharmacies mirrors that of facilities.  In the aftermath of the current wave, facilities will see drops in admissions and LTC pharmacies will see further revenue losses,” noted Rosenbloom. “LTC pharmacies now face the added cost of vaccine distribution coupled with additional economic losses from the new spike in cases.”

Giving LTC pharmacies relief comparable to other health care providers like hospitals and physicians would take about $350 million.  With at least $20-30 billion remaining in the Provider Relief Fund, Rosenbloom concluded that “Secretary Azar should authorize urgently needed assistance to LTC pharmacies immediately.”

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 The Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC) is the only national organization exclusively representing the interests of LTC pharmacies. Its members operate in all 50 states and serve 850,000 patients daily in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities across the country.

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