SCPC Letter to HHS asks for Provider Relief to Support Continued Essential Care for Vulnerable People in Nursing Homes
Washington, DC – The Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar highlighting new data on the worsening financial crisis that long-term care (LTC) pharmacies are facing in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The letter also includes recommendations for addressing HHS barriers to relief that are desperately needed by this sector.
The letter, signed by SCPC President and CEO, Alan Rosenbloom, noted: “Revenues from short-stay, rehabilitation patients are down more than 25% through May 31 as compared to 22% through April 30, and revenues from long-stay residents are down 11% through May 31 as compared to 7% through April 30. Unplanned costs for additional personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, employee support and medication supplies, and higher delivery and infection control expenses have increased LTC pharmacy costs by 6%.”
Despite drastically declining revenues, increased costs and federal mandates that LTC pharmacies provide health care services to patients beyond simple drug dispensing, recent HHS guidance on funding distribution means LTC pharmacies miss out on relief––even though they remain crucial to the life, health and well-being of vulnerable residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As such, SCPC’s letter outlined two areas where HHS can immediately take steps to extend emergency relief to this key pillar of the long-term care community.
First, HHS has excluded prescription sales from patient revenues, which could limit LTC pharmacy relief inappropriately. By doing so, HHS inadvertently discounts federal statutory and regulatory mandates requiring that LTC pharmacies provide health care services to residents in LTC facilities. HHS should take steps to ensure the eligibility of LTC pharmacies for current or future funding tranches by recognizing that LTC pharmacies’ contributions extend beyond simple drug dispensing to include patient care.
Second, while some LTC pharmacies did receive minimal support in General Distribution from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund, unique characteristics of the LTC pharmacy market have resulted in disproportionately limited relief compared to other types of providers. Although HHS has stated a goal of providing relief equal to 2% of annual patient revenues, the distinct minority of LTC pharmacies that received relief have received payments equal to less than 0.01% of patient revenues. One LTC pharmacy received only a single dollar of relief. Yet, HHS has barred these LTC pharmacies from any further relief since any payment, no matter how small or disproportionate, now disqualifies LTC pharmacies from additional funds. Instead, HHS should consider the comparative fairness and adequacy of payments a provider has received before flatly excluding recipients from further funds.
“Without financial relief, the patients who benefit from LTC pharmacy care may face interruptions in access life-saving medications,” noted Rosenbloom. “Having been excluded thus far from Provider Relief funds, HHS must support the pharmacists and staff working to establish, evaluate and coordinate all aspects of pharmaceutical services provided to vulnerable residents in collaboration with facilities. These services clearly constitute essential patient care and demand support before it’s too late.”
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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. Visit seniorcarepharmacies.org to learn more.