As Older Americans Face Growing Danger, Care Providers Call on Congress to Provide Real Coronavirus Relief, Not Walk Away

PRESS RELEASE | August 14, 2020 | by Lisa Sanders

“COVID Is Not Taking A Summer Recess—Neither Should You,” Say Leaders from Hot-Spot States as New Situation Reports and Testing Analysis Are Released

Lisa Sanders,
lsanders@leadingage.org

August 14, 2020 Washington DC – Reacting with alarm to Senate inaction as COVID-19 threatens more older adults, aging services leaders from across the country called on federal lawmakers to get back to work—and provide real relief to providers struggling to access and pay for the supplies and testing they need to care for older adults. Both the Senate and House have gone home without plans to return until September.
 

“How can Congress go home when patchwork policies and half-measures are causing deaths, creating unnecessary risks, and leading to harmful social isolation? We never imagined that they would walk away from the very people most threatened by this virus,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, which represents more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services organizations. “It’s time to put older adults and their care providers at the front of the line, right alongside hospitals for life-saving resources like PPE and testing.”
 

The comments came at a nationwide press conference today, where LeadingAge released a new fact sheet and infographic on the immediate need for access and funding for rapid-response testing, as care providers struggle to pay the spiraling costs of expensive testing supplies and PPE. The Senate adjourned yesterday and went home without even debating HEALS Act proposals offered last month, after the House of Representatives passed legislation in May.
 

LeadingAge also released new “Situation Reports” on the situations in four hard-hit midwest and mountain states: Indiana, Missouri, Montana, and Ohio. Nonprofit aging services leaders from these states discussed the grim challenges they are facing and called on Congress to take the steps needed to protect millions of older adults from the worst pandemic in a century.
 

Another report from the American Health Care Association this week showed that most nursing homes are losing money since the coronavirus crisis began, as they face high and escalating costs for PPE and testing. And a study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Kaiser Health News revealed that many of the more than 900 U.S. health care workers who have died in the fight against COVID-19 worked in facilities with shortages of protective equipment such as gowns, masks, gloves, and face shields.
 

“This is unsustainable.” said Smith Sloan. “The Senate must move a bill now that provides a dedicated fund for aging services providers. Every day that passes more lives are lost. Older lives are not expendable.”
 

Press Materials

Remarks by State Aging Services Leaders

Nonprofit aging services leaders from some of the hardest hit states midwest and mountain states—Indiana, Missouri, Montana, and Ohio—joined the press conference to discuss the challenges in their states, and call on Congress to take the steps needed to protect millions of older adults from the worst pandemic in a century. Remarks were offered by:

“Adults over 60 account for more than 9 in 10 deaths in Indiana—even as government data suggests that many nursing homes in the state lack even a week’s supply of masks and gowns.”

  • Evan Lubline, CEO, Hooverwood Living, Indianapolis, IN, which offers skilled nursing and assisted living services

“We can get PPE, but the problem is paying for it at $30,000 per month. And pandemic pay for staff is as much as $45,000 monthly. We’ve been losing $300,000-$350,000 monthly. We are in the fight for our lives. If we can’t get more help, we have to think about how we keep our doors open then.”

  • David Trost, President & CEO, St. John’s United, Billings, MT, a provider of a continuum of services including home health, hospice, skilled nursing, independent and assisted living

“The federal government’s shotgun approach to distribution has resulted in funds going to providers that are not in need—and not enough funds to those who are. Meanwhile prices for supplies are so high that we are developing partnerships with hospitals, lobbying for testing machines from FEMA stockpiles, and promoting isolation facilities for community COVID-positive elders. We need more support.”

  • Gary Anderson, CEO, Lutheran Senior Services, St. Louis, MO, a provider of retirement community, home and community-based services, and affordable housing

“COVID has made this the most difficult year in our 160-year history. In the early days of the crisis, we lacked the necessary PPE and vendors did not have the inventory to supply us. It’s still hard to locate PPE—and we are spending tenfold on what we can afford. We’re on track to spend over $1.5 million in testing, without assurance of full reimbursement.”

  • Danny Williams, President & CEO, Eliza Bryant Village, Cleveland, OH, the oldest continually operating African American-founded long term care facility in the U.S.

“What kind of society would we be if we allowed an organization committed to caring for some of the poorest and sickest among us to fail? The reality is our survival (so far at least) has been the result of a committed board and staff , culturally competent care, and cobbled-together emergency funding. However, we will need additional help if we are to ultimately withstand this pandemic. We have. But what happens next?”

“We’re spending four to five times as much on personal protective equipment items, and items that used to cost 25 cents now cost two dollars. Since COVID-19’s arrival, testing has been the Achilles heel of all strategies. As Ohio steps up its testing mandates, the costs are unsustainable. If more support doesn't come, closures are a reality.”

HEALS Act Analysis

A Senate HEALS Act Snapshot analysis produced by LeadingAge offers a topline of the bills’ offerings and fundamental shortcomings for aging services providers and older Americans, including:

  • No Dedicated Fund for Aging Services Providers: The package includes $25 billion for the provider relief fund, to be split among all eligible providers—which is only a fraction of the $100 billion dollars needed by aging services providers alone.
  • Insufficient Testing Funds and No National Testing Strategy: The testing provisions in this legislation are insufficient for keeping up with COVID’s nationwide surge. The total funding allocated isn’t nearly enough to meet demand. Instead of piecemeal funding, a comprehensive and coordinated national testing strategy is needed.
  • No Immediate Solutions for PPE: The bill also does not sufficiently address the urgent, immediate and growing need for personal protective equipment. Future tax credits for PPE are not enough. The Defense Production Act needs to be invoked immediately, supported by funding from Congress to ensure that more expansive PPE production begins as quickly as possible.
  • Needs of Older Adults in Affordable Housing Not Addressed: The Senate package does nothing to address the needs of more 750,000 older adults in HUD federally-subsidized and privately-owned housing programs.
  • Minimal Staffing Provisions, No Heroes Pay: Several provisions of the Act relate to staffing issues, but much needed pandemic or heroes pay for frontline workers is not included.
About LeadingAge:

We represent more than 5,000 aging-focused organizations that touch millions of lives every day. Alongside our members and 38 state partners, we address critical issues by blending applied research, advocacy, education, and community-building. We bring together the most inventive minds in our field to support older adults as they age wherever they call home. We make America a better place to grow old. For more information: www.leadingage.org