Testing Nursing Home Workers Can Help Stop Coronavirus. But Who Should Pay?

Nationally, a similar standoff is also playing out. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has asked the federal government for better guidance about how screening tests should be covered, but an association spokeswoman said the group had not yet received a response. A spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, said it was also waiting for federal advice on employee testing.

“It is essential that strategies that addresses workplace testing be part of an overarching public and occupational health strategy, and that federal guidance clearly articulate the roles of insurance providers, employers and public health officials,” the spokeswoman, Kristine Grow, said in a statement.

Admiral Giroir said last Wednesday that insurers, who are required to cover medically necessary coronavirus tests under the federal CARES act, should not be asked to cover worker screenings. “We would expect that to be borne either by the employer directly or under the state plan,” he said in a call with reporters.

Meanwhile, nursing home operators say that even though they want to test residents and staff, a poorly coordinated plan has made their job difficult.

Dr. David A. Nace, the chief medical officer of UPMC Senior Communities in Pittsburgh, which operates nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, said when he talks to colleagues around the country, many say they still struggle to find enough supplies to do the testing. “It still remains limited, despite what anybody’s going to tell you,” he said.

Carol Silver Elliott, the president and chief executive of Jewish Home Family, a consortium of senior care services that includes a nursing home in northern New Jersey, said she had to scramble to find a lab that could process hundreds of tests. Under an executive order, nursing home workers should be regularly tested, but the lab she had been using could only do a few at a time, and had a turnaround of several days.

“As we were wringing our hands over this, one of my colleagues” — someone who worked at another nursing home — “sent me an email and she said they had heard of a lab out of Colorado that had testing available,” she said. Ms. Silver Elliott said she grabbed the phone and called immediately, and the lab had enough capacity to receive her tests by overnight mail.

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