The US is giving $523 million to 9,000 nursing homes for reducing COVID-19 cases. This is the first time it has given institutions financial rewards for controlling the spread.

nursing home
Two relatives visit their mother (r), in the Johannes Sondermann House of the AWO geriatric centre.

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will split $523 million in incentive payments among more than 9,000 nursing homes for reducing COVID-19 related infections and deaths.
  • The agency gave the first payments out on Wednesday, and said it is “exhausting all measures to ensure nursing homes nationwide are safe.”
  • Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Their residents and staff accounting for more than a third of the country’s COVID-19 fatalities.
  • Officials have recommended that healthcare workers and residents of long-term-care facilities are first in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The government is giving financial rewards to nursing homes that slowed the spread of COVID-19 among their residents.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will share incentive payments totalling $523 million among more than 9,000 nursing homes, with the first payments given out on Wednesday.

This marks the first time the US has given financial rewards to institutions for maintaining COVID-19 prevention measures, The Washington Post reported.

Around 69% (9,248) of nursing homes in the US that are eligible for HHS support will receive the funding.

“These nursing homes are being rewarded for successfully reducing COVID-19-related infections and deaths between September and October,” HHS said in a statement Monday.

Nursing homes can use the funding to purchase more personal protective equipment “or other efforts to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” HHS said. The virus “continues to take a devastating toll on nursing homes stretched thin,” the agency added.

More than 100,000 nursing home residents and staff have died from the virus in the US, accounting for more than a third of the country’s COVID-19 fatalities, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend that healthcare workers and residents of long-term-care facilities receive a coronavirus vaccine first.

A panel of outside advisors to the FDA is meeting Thursday to vote on whether to recommend that the FDA issues an emergency authorization for the shot. If the FDA agrees with the recommendation and decides to proceed, people may start getting the shot as early as Friday. Though there may be delays to distribution.

Read more: Pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals are gearing up to give coronavirus vaccines to millions of Americans. Here’s how they’re preparing and how much they stand to profit along the way.

In August, HHS announced plans to distribute an additional $5 billion in Provider Relief Fund (PRF) payments to nursing homes, including $2 billion for an incentive-based program to rewards nursing homes that “create and maintain safe environments for their residents.”

In the first round of funding in October, the agency gave $331 million in emergency funds to nursing homes for keeping new COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among residents “lower than the communities they serve.” This second round of $523 million will be followed by three further rounds.

“Paired with continued funding directly tied to COVID-19 infection and mortality rate reductions, HHS is exhausting all measures to ensure nursing homes nationwide are safe,” the agency said.

This includes free interactive COVID-19 safety training and mentoring through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which only half of all US nursing homes have enrolled on, HHS said.

“As we approach the rollout of safe and effective vaccines for our most vulnerable, we continue the innovative program we created this year to incentivize and assist nursing homes in battling COVID-19 and applying the right infection control practices,” said HHS secretary, Alex Azar.

“This half a billion dollars in incentive payments will reward nursing homes that have shown results in their tireless work to keep their residents safe from the virus.”

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