One State Will Use Medicaid Funds to Pay Bonuses to Long-Term Care Workers

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the payments would "alleviate some of the financial stress" for the roughly 26,000 caregivers who are eligible to receive them.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the payments would "alleviate some of the financial stress" for the roughly 26,000 caregivers who are eligible to receive them. Associated Press

 

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Arkansas received federal approval this week to use up to $55 million in Medicaid funds for weekly bonuses for frontline health workers in long-term care facilities.

Arkansas will begin using Medicaid funds to pay bonuses to health-care providers who work in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, as well as those who care for elderly people at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced this week.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved the move Wednesday, freeing $55 million in Medicaid funds for weekly bonus payments of up to $500.

“Not only will these funds help ensure continuity of care, the extra pay will alleviate some of the financial stress for the caregivers, who are selflessly serving in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and in private homes at increased risk to their own health,” the governor said in a statement.

More than 26,000 non-physician direct-care workers at Arkansas long-term care facilities, including home health aides and registered nurses, will be eligible for the payments.

The payments vary depending on a worker’s schedule and proximity to patients who have tested positive for the virus. Full-time employees will receive $250 per week, while those who work between 20 and 39 hours will receive $125. If a patient in a facility or home has tested positive for Covid-19, an employee working between 1 and 19 hours per week will receive $125, an employee working between 20 and 39 hours will receive $250 and full-time employees will receive a weekly bonus of $500.

Payments are available for eight weeks, backdated to April 5 and extending through May 30. The bonuses could be extended if the state still has more than 1,000 active cases of coronavirus.

A state advisory panel also recommended allocating up to $80 million of federal coronavirus relief funds to provide similar bonuses to hospital caregivers and to non-medical workers, including janitors and cafeteria staff, in various medical facilities. Those funds would come from the state’s portion of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed last month by Congress.

As of Thursday night, there were 1,620 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Arkansas and 37 deaths, according to the state health department.

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Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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