Direct care workers in long-term care facilities and nursing homes will be getting bonus payments to supplement their weekly income during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his Wednesday press conference, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)had approved a request for the state to use Medicaid funds to support direct care workers in these facilities. Hutchinson previously stated his intention to request a Medicaid waiver from the CMS, and on April 8, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) submitted an emergency state plan amendment and two “Appendix K” amendments to cover services for these health care workers.
The payments will be retroactive to April 5. Payments will continue through May 30 but could continue for an additional 30 days after that date if the number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas exceeds 1,000. However, payments will not continue past the date the current national public health emergency concludes.
According to Hutchinson, the CMS required the department to break apart the request into multiple parts. The most essential element, Hutchinson said, was ensuring that direct care workers received the supplemental pay.
Payments will be paid to facilities or agency providers. State DHS Secretary Cindy Gillespie said that information on the payments would be distributed to facilities, and that the department will work to process the payments for the week of April 5-12 as soon as possible.
Both public and private facilities will be eligible for the bonus payments. Medicaid-enrolled proviers who employ or contract with long-term care direct workers, including homes, ARChoices providers, Personal Care providers, Area Agencies on Aging, Assisted Living Facilities, Hospice providers, CES waiver providers for supported living services, and agencies in non-institutional settings for people who get care in their homes and communities, will be eligible.
The workers that are eligible to receive additional payments include:
- Registered Nurses
- Licensed practical nurses
- Certified nurse aides
- Personal care aides assisting with activities of daily living under the supervision of a nurse or therapist
- Home health aides assisting with activities of daily living under the supervision of a nurse or therapist
- Nursing assistive personnel
- Direct care workers providing services under home and community-based waiver
- Intermediate Care Facility direct care staff including those that work for a state-run Human Development Center
- Assisted Living direct care staff members
- Hospice service direct care workers
- Respiratory therapists
Part time workers who work 20-39 hours per week will receive an additional $125 per week. Those that work 40 or more hours a week will receive $250 and those who work a regularly planned split shift schedule that overlaps weeks that is equal or more than 150 hours will also be paid $250.
Enhanced pay is also available if a patient has tested positive for COVID-19 in a given facility. Direct care workers who work 1-19 hours per week in a COVID-19 positive facility will receive an enhancement of $125 per week, those that work 20-39 will receive an additional $250 per week, and those that work 40 or more hours will receive an additional $500. Direct care workers on a split shift schedule of 150 hours or more will also receive $500 as an enhancement.
Currently, direct non-physician health care workers in hospital settings are not eligible for the payments. Hutchinson has directed the DHS to develop a payment package for these workers to present to a state task force.
Gillespie said that this proposal should be prepared this afternoon (April 15).