Concerns over who will pay for coronavirus testing at Florida nursing homes

Southeast

LAUDERHILL, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Jessica Bocanegra visited her grandmother in her Lauderhill, Florida nursing home every single week.

But in May, her grandmother tested positive for COVID-19.

One week later, she was dead.

Jessica never got to say goodbye.

“When I did get a hold of a nurse, she went to look for an iPad, but when she called me back she told me my grandmother had already passed away. That is how I found out,” Bocanegra said.

According to AARP, a lobbying group for seniors, during a four week period ending Sept. 20, for every 100 nursing home residents nationwide, about three residents contracted COVID-19.

And similarly, about three staff members contracted the virus per 100. It’s one of the reasons Florida required all nursing home staff be regularly tested.

“They are giving direct care to the patients. It’s very important,” Bocanegra said.

The state was paying for on-site testing for nursing home staff. But Brian Lee, with Families for Better Care, says that has recently changed.

“I’m a little concerned that Florida did break its contract with the testing company for nursing homes to be able to pick up the tab for the tests, they put that responsibility on the nursing homes,” Lee said.

But Lee says there does appear to be a plan. The Federal government plans to send tests to facilities, and Medicare will also be billed for some of the tests.

“There is really no one that will have to pay out of pocket, except for you and I as taxpayers, for these tests happening in nursing homes,” Lee said.

Experts say frequent testing is the best way to keep COVID-19 out of nursing homes where residents tend to be the most vulnerable to the virus.

About 24 percent of nursing home residents who contract COVID-19 die, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Nationwide, there have been 252,939 confirmed COVID cases in nursing homes and 59,626 deaths.

The states with the most nursing home deaths relative to their population are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Rhode Island.

For every death – there is a family grieving.

“She was alone in a room by herself. I wasn’t able to say goodbye to her or see her and say I love her,” Bocanegra said about her grandmother’s death.

Another issue, according to the AARP, is PPE in nursing homes. They say about a quarter of nursing homes surveyed last month reported only having a one week supply of masks and gloves.

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