Maine’s nursing facilities hit with unexpected costs from the coronavirus pandemic can apply for a reimbursement from the state, Gov. Janet Mills and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew announced Thursday morning.
The reimbursement is part of the state’s supplemental funding through MaineCare and DHHS to support infection control and visitor screening to protect both nursing facility workers and residents.
The “extraordinary circumstance allowance” will be available to nursing facilities to cover costs “associated with unforeseen events outside of their control,” according to the joint statement.
Additionally, DHHS is asking facilities to track and submit costs beyond normal expenses such as from overstaffing and stocking up on supplies like hand sanitizer, face masks and gowns.
The state will accept reimbursement requests for these kinds of expenses going back to March 1.
In a previous effort to mitigate the crisis, the Legislature approved a $73 million spending plan aimed at bringing up wages for health care workers and increasing the state’s testing capacities for the coronavirus.
The package includes a $20 million in-state spending plan for health care priorities — about $15 million of which consists of rate increases for direct health care providers for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as services for people with underlying health conditions and disabilities.
COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, poses a significant threat to older people — especially those older than 80 years old, and could put at least half of Maine’s population at risk of serious illness, if contracted.
Nursing facilities around the country have been on high alert in recent weeks, tightening visitor restrictions and screenings to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus. But nursing homes aren’t the only facilities where community transmission is a threat.
In Maine, a sixth resident of the OceanView at Falmouth retirement community recently tested positive for the illness.
“We know COVID-19 poses a significant threat to older Mainers, like those who live in our state’s nursing facilities, which is why my administration is working closely with these facilities to do all we can to protect their residents,” Gov. Mills said.
“This new measure will financially support nursing facilities as they implement additional protections to ensure the health and safety of those they serve.”
Watch: What older adults need to know about COVID-19