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Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor Hutchinson announces extra money coming to health care workers

News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday afternoon that Medicaid has approved a waiver for the state to do direct care payments for long-term healthcare workers.

The payments will be backdated effective April 5 and will end on May 30, unless there are still more than 1,000 cases on May 30. If there are more than 1,000 cases on May 30, the payments will continue for an additional 30 days. Governor Hutchinson said the payments will not go past the end of the national public health emergency.

The additional care continuity pay will go to eligible non-physician direct-care workers employed by or contracted with institutional setting providers, such as nursing homes, intermediate care facilities, and assisted living facilities; and agencies in non-institutional settings for people who receive care in their homes and communities. Eligible workers include those who are continuing to provide face-to-face services to this population and include:

  • Registered Nurses
  • Licensed practical nurses
  • Certified nurse aides
  • Personal care aides assisting with activities of daily living under the supervision of a nurse or therapist
  • Home health aides assisting with activities of daily living under the supervision of a nurse or therapist
  • Nursing assistive personnel
  • Direct care workers providing services under home and community-based waiver
  • Intermediate Care Facility direct care staff including those that work for a state-run Human Development Center
  • Assisted Living direct care staff members
  • Hospice service direct care workers
  • Respiratory therapists

The weekly care continuity initiative payments are available to direct care workers as follows:
A) work 20-39 hours per week–$125.00
B) work 40+ hours per week–$250.00
C) work a regularly planned split shift schedule that overlap weeks that equal or exceed 150 hours per month, not including overtime–$250.00/week

If a client has tested positive for COVID-19, the direct care workers in that facility or home and community-based setting, will receive an enhanced payment as follows:
A) work 1-19 hours per week–$125.00
B) work 20-39 hours per week–$250.00
C) work 40+ hours per week–$500.00
D) work a regularly planned split shift schedule that overlap weeks that equal or exceed 150 hours per month, not including overtime–$500.00/week

The payments will be available to Medicaid-enrolled providers who employ or contract with LTSS direct care workers. This includes nursing homes, ARChoices providers, Personal Care providers, Area Agencies on Aging, Assisted Living Facilities, Hospice providers, CES waiver providers for supported living services, and agencies in non-institutional settings for people who get care in their homes and communities.

The governor said the hospital direct-care workers and the non-direct care workers in hospitals and nursing homes settings are not covered yet.

Governor Hutchinson said Wednesday he is asking the CARES Act Steering Committee to approve supplemental payments to direct-care workers and the non-direct care workers in hospital and nursing homes today at their first meeting. The governor said he should hear more about this later today.

Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, also announced Wednesday that he is relaxing the criteria for testing to include anyone who shows symptoms of the virus. It had previously been recommended restrictions to health care workers, people in longterm facilities, people aged 65 and older or those who have underlying conditions with symptoms.

The governor also announced there were 1,569 cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas, with 83 hospitalizations and 33 deaths total.

According to Dr. Smith, the 33rd death was a person in a nursing home. This makes the seventh nursing home death due to complications from the coronavirus. Dr. Smith said there are 28 nursing homes that have cases.

There are 26 people on ventilators, which is three fewer than Tuesday.

Of the 1,569 cumulative cases, 1,047 are active cases.

According to Dr. Smith, 215 health care workers have tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Smith said plasma that has been donated by recovered COVID-19 patients have been given to current patients in Arkansas. According to Dr. Smith, the patients seem to be getting better, but there’s not a lot of data to see if it’s actually working. About 100 people who have recovered from the virus have donated, according to Dr. Smith.

The projected peak for Arkansas is May 2, according to the University of Washington

To watch the full news conference, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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