INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities would need an estimated $16 million to test all staffers and residents — an estimated 100,000 Hoosiers — once for COVID-19.
But testing at those facilities would have to occur at regular intervals to reduce spread of the coronavirus, noted the American Health Care Association & National Center for Assisted Living, which provided the estimate.
Because of the cost, the association, which represents nursing facilities across the country, has called for state and federal funding to support regular testing of staff and residents.
“I know everybody has struggled … with getting enough testing capacity to test everybody as frequently as needed for it to be clinically valuable,” said Zach Cattell, president of the Indiana chapter of association.
“The ability for the sector to test all of its own employees and all of its own residents doesn’t exist. .. If we don’t have government support for that effort over the long haul, it will be unsustainable.”
Cattell represents 450 skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities in Indiana and noted that, combined, the facilities had nearly 57,000 employees caring for over 50,000 Hoosiers.
The coronavirus has taken a devastating toll in long-term care facilities nationwide. In Indiana, residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, account for half of all COVID-19 deaths.
On May 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed long-term care residents in the highest priority for testing, then on May 11, Vice President Mike Pence urged governors to test all nursing home residents and staff within the following two weeks.
Indiana is among the states that failed to reach the goal. On June 10, the state announced that it would test all nursing homes’ staffers, about 48,000 employees, by the end of the month. In a letter to nursing homes, the state said it would use the data to determine the rate of asymptomatic spread and formulate guidelines on periodic testing.
Indiana moved testing sites in 11 counties to accommodate staff testing at nursing homes, which will be overseen by contractor OptumServe Health Services. Onsite testing will occur at 60 facilities during the last week of June and another 440 facilities will perform their own testing.
The state renewed its OptumServe contract for an undisclosed amount in June, despite testing delays. The May contract cost $18 million.
Testing doesn’t include staff or residents at assisted-living facilities, which have experienced outbreaks similar to nursing homes. Indiana doesn’t share data on COVID-19 in any long-term care facilities.
Nursing homes, which include skilled-nursing facilities, typically offer long-term medical care in congregate settings while assisted-living facilities care for individuals who need some assistance but can live more independently. Indiana has 534 registered nursing homes and 202 freestanding residential, or assisted living, facilities.
AARP Indiana, along with its national affiliate, has pushed for testing of all staffers and residents at long-term care facilities for COVID-19, saying that with supply shortages testing should prioritize individuals in contact with known COVID-positive patients.
“This testing will help control the spread of the virus among the resident population and the community at large as staff, emergency health care, on-site maintenance contractors and others come and go from facilities,” AARP Indiana said in an email. “AARP believes the state must take immediate steps to ensure full access to testing for staff and residents.”
To qualify for federal funding for testing, states had a May 31 deadline to submit plans with the number of tests needed per month, lab testing capacity and a description of how the resources will be used. States could include whether they intended to focus on special populations, such as senior care residents, in the applications.
CNHI’s June 2 public records request for a copy of Indiana’s testing plan still is pending.