President Biden Declares ‘New Moment’ in COVID Fight

President Biden addressed a joint session of Congress tonight, declaring that “the State of the Union is strong” and “stronger today than we were a year ago” as the pandemic enters its third year. The president outlined a four-part plan to continue to combat the virus and move forward safely back to more normal routines, to include: (1) vaccines and treatments; (2) preparing for new variants; (3) ending the shutdown of schools and businesses; and (4) continuing to vaccinate the world.

Argentum has continued to press the Administration and Congress to address the unmet needs of seniors and caregivers. While the president declared a “new moment in the fight against COVID-19, with severe cases down to a level not seen since last July,” COVID-19 still poses a significant threat to seniors who remain most at-risk of complications from the viruseven with vaccinationas two-thirds of breakthrough hospitalizations have occurred in those who are age 65 and older.

President Biden announced he would be requesting additional COVID-19 response funding to pay for the tools to combat the virus, such as vaccines, treatments, tests, and masks. In anticipation of this request, Argentum recently sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging consideration of the financial and workforce crises facing providers and for the allocation of $10 billion for senior living providers to offset their pandemic-related losses.

Argentum has also called for passage of the SENIOR Act (H.R. 6530) that would create a $10 billion caregiver sustainability fund and $1.25 billion in workforce development grants, and for passage of the Employee Retention Tax Credit Reinstatement Act (H.R. 6161 and S. 3625) to restore access to a $26,000 per employee credit and thereby help address both the financial and workforce crises.

We are also pushing for passage of S. 3611 and H.R. 5963, the Provider Relief Fund Improvement Act, which would require HHS to distribute remaining provider relief funds by the end of the month. We are hopeful that these bills will help signal the importance of restoring funding for the PRF, after $17 billion was shifted from the PRF to pharmaceutical companies to cover vaccine costs, effectively depleting all remaining funds from the PRF.

During the address, President Biden also called attention to plans revealed yesterday to overhaul federal nursing home regulations, highlighting the increased stake that Wall Street has had in nursing homes and pushing for higher standards for providers. According to the administration, the need for increased federal oversight is prompted by reports showing high COVID-19 fatality rates in nursing homes, staffing shortages and lower care outcomes for residents at private equity-owned nursing homes, and insufficient accountability and transparency in the sector.

The administration did not call for greater oversight of assisted living or the senior living industry. In fact, the only reference to assisted living made by the administration in its written plan related to rapid antigen tests that have been supplied to both nursing homes and assisted living facilities. CMS had previously issued guidance that the agency “does not have regulatory authority over care settings such as Assisted Living Facilities.”

Argentum will be closely monitoring the Administration’s continued COVID-19 response efforts, long-term care proposals, and plans to move forward from the pandemic. We will take our push for additional COVID-19 relief to the administration and Capitol Hill next week during our Public Policy Institute, March 7-9.

Topics: Biden Administration

Written by Argentum

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