Archive February 2024

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Special Invitation - Conversation with Dana Connors on MERIT Staff Program

On behalf of Maine Retirement Investment Trust (MERIT) and AARP Maine, we are excited to invite you to join a special virtual roundtable with Dana Connors, former President of the Maine State Chamber, on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, at 2 pm ET. The conversation will focus on providing an update on the MERIT program, discussing the future roadmap for the program, and ways to engage with the program. 

Many small businesses want to provide retirement benefits but lack the time, knowledge, and resources. This prevents thousands of Mainers from accessing retirement benefits at work. MERIT is working to ensure that all Mainers have access to retirement at work by providing small businesses with a free program to provide retirement benefits to their employees.

We hope to educate the broader community on the program and work together to support the small business owners engaged with your organization as the program progresses.

To RSVP, please register via this link or respond to this email with your name, title, and organization by Friday, March 8

We will also share some additional details before the call. If this time does not work for you, we’d be happy to schedule time one-on-one to talk more.

We’d love to have you and any other representatives from your organization there. Let us know if you have any questions!

Staff contact:

REGISTRATION IS OPEN! Caring for the Caregivers: Building a Resilient Workforce and Organization

Presented by Maine Hospital Association and Maine Medical Association.  

March 13, 2024

9:00 AM-4:00 PM

Augusta Civic Center
76 Community Drive
Augusta, ME 04330
Registration & continental breakfast will start at 8:30 a.m.
All main sessions will take place in the Augusta/Capital/Pine Tree Rooms of the North Wing

Conference Overview:
This conference, sponsored by the Maine Hospital Association and Maine Medical Association, is intended for physicians, advance practice providers, nurses and care team leaders. Join us as we gather to identify best practices and new approaches that can be implemented to improve wellness and resilience, both at the individual and organizational levels.
There are a range of societal, cultural, structural, and organizational factors that contribute to burnout and moral injury among health workers, including excessive workloads, administrative burdens, limited say in scheduling, and lack of organizational support. To build and strengthen our care teams, with a foundation of wellness and resilience, we need to rethink how we approach the work we are doing every day and the culture we promote.

This conference will focus specifically on care model innovation and work re-design, and how we invest in our healthcare teams for the future. Participants, by the end of the conference, will be able to identify best practices and new approaches that can be implemented in their individual organization, practice, or care team to improve wellness and resilience, and strengthen the connection with each other.

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AHCA NCAL Leads Coalition Letter Urging Support For The Protecting Rural Seniors’ Access To Care Act

Bill Would Stop The Biden Administration From Implementing Federal Staffing Mandate For Nursing Homes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), sent a joint letter to U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO-08) and Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA-01) urging support for the Protecting Rural Seniors’ Access to Care Act (H.R. 5796), introduced by U.S. Representatives Michelle Fischbach (R-MN-07) and Greg Pence (R-IN-06). The bill, which is a companion to bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate, would prohibit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from finalizing its proposed federal staffing mandate for nursing homes and establish an advisory panel on nursing home staffing.

The AHCA/NCAL-led letter was signed by nearly 1,100 groups, including more than 15 national organizations, dozens of state organizations and hundreds of long term care providers across the country. The diverse group of signers includes advocacy organizations representing rural providers, state veterans’ homes, hospitals, and county officials. In the letter, the groups write:
“Without workforce development programs and funding, a staffing mandate will not create more caregivers. This impossible standard only threatens to shut down more nursing homes – creating further hospital backlogs – and severely limit access to care for our nation’s most vulnerable seniors. Without a pipeline of new caregivers and resources to recruit, nursing homes will be forced to downsize to meet these requirements or close.
“Since the federal staffing mandate was announced, there has been a growing consensus among Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, long term care advocates, and health care experts that the proposal will hurt our most vulnerable residents and their families and that the Biden Administration should reconsider its implementation.”
“Nursing homes are a critical part of our health care continuum, which is why the number of stakeholders speaking out against this flawed policy continues to grow,” said AHCA/NCAL Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Clif Porter. “We are extremely proud to have led this effort and grateful for the support of these organizations. We strongly urge Members of Congress to support both the House and Senate versions of this bill, so we can protect access to care for our nation’s seniors.”

The one-size-fits-all staffing mandate proposed by CMS would require nursing homes to meet arbitrary staffing minimums without any meaningful resources and workforce development programs. Nearly 95 percent of nursing homes do not meet at least one or more of the three proposed requirements. The impossible standards would force nursing homes to downsize or close entirely, displacing hundreds of thousands of nursing home residents—a major concern for underserved and rural communities. Hundreds of nursing homes have already been forced to close since the beginning of the pandemic, many due to a lack of available workers.

Read the full letter HERE.

MHCA and Coalition Speaks in Opposition of Governor's Proposed Supplemental Budget

On Monday, a coalition of long term care leaders testified in opposition of LD 2214 An Act to Make Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds and to Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2024 and June 30, 2025. 

We want to share our gratitude for those who spoke at the hearing and those who responded to our action alert and submitted written testimony. Our message is stronger with many voices. Everyone is encouraged to get involved and message legislators through our advocacy tool here.

MHCA President & CEO Angela Westhoff made it clear to the committees that this bill does not do nearly enough for long term care: "In light of the historic rate of long term care facility closures and conversions, I am testifying in opposition to the proposed supplemental budget. If the budget advances as drafted, Maine will continue to lose access to nursing homes and residential care facilities."

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Change Healthcare Cyber Security Issues: MaineCare Urges Providers to Submit Documentation Electronically to Avoid Delays

As communicated on February 23, 2024, Change Healthcare is experiencing a network interruption related to a cyber security issue. This is a national issue affecting health care systems and Medicaid programs in many states, including Maine.? 
As a result of this disruption, providers may experience delays in MaineCare’s processing of the items submitted by mail and/or fax on or after February 21, 2023, including claims, provider enrollment documentation, and new or updated prior authorization (PA) requests. MaineCare continues to prioritize urgent PA requests. 

We strongly encourage providers to use the HealthPAS Online Portal to submit claims, provider enrollment documentation, and PAs rather than submit by fax or mail.?Providers will need to use their Trading Partner Account (TPA) to access the portal.?? 
Additionally, we understand that some providers rely on Change Healthcare to submit electronic claims to MaineCare and therefore are unable to submit claims electronically at this time. As a reminder, providers may use the Direct Data Entry option on the HealthPAS Online Portal to submit claims.  

For questions, please contact Provider Services at 1-866-690-5585.? 

Staff contact:

MHCA Spearheads Coalition to Advocate for Increased Funding for Long Term Care

On Monday, the Maine Health Care Association held a press conference at the State House to announce the launch of the Who Will Care Coalition. The coalition consists of numerous health care entities, advocacy organizations, and public health professionals. The group is advocating to prevent the loss of Maine’s nursing homes and residential care facilities currently jeopardized by a $120 million reimbursement shortfall. 

The coalition was joined by Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and Senator Rick Bennett (R-Oxford) as they called for additional funding for long term care facilities in Maine. The chronic underfunding and lack of staff have seriously impeded Maine’s ability to provide long term care services to the aging population.
“Over a quarter of residents in Aroostook County are 65 years old or older. The County and other rural parts of the state have a significant need for nursing homes, but they continue to close because of underfunding,” said Senate President Jackson. “I stand here today as part of this call to action to impress upon my colleagues in the legislature that the time to act is now.”
The problems facing nursing homes and assisted living providers have been exacerbated in the last few years by high inflation and the workforce recruitment and retention crisis. To continue providing high-quality care, homes often use costly temporary staffing.
“It is clear that the past approach of one-time supplemental payments is not working, and Maine needs to make a serious, concerted effort to save its nursing homes,” shared Senator Bennett. “We will continue to lose these services across Maine if we do not work to close the shortfall nursing facilities experience. Rural Mainers will be disproportionately impacted by Augusta’s inability to act.”
Closures also impact the whole healthcare system as many Mainers are stuck in hospitals waiting months for a long term care placement. Two nurses, Jessica Duffy, RN, Executive Director of Affinity Care of Maine and Doreen Locke, RN, Director of Nursing at Odd Fellows’ and Rebekah’s Home of Maine also spoke at the press conference to talk about their experiences working with residents in long term care.  
“The partners on this campaign want to underscore the fundamental question that is the namesake of this coalition, Who Will Care?,” said Angela Cole Westhoff, Executive Director of the Maine Health Care Association. “We know legislators on both sides of the aisle care, and now our residents, their families, and our staff are calling on them to show their passion and commitment with a meaningful investment that will stop these closures.”

The coalition is asking the legislature to allocate $31 million of state general funds. Current coalition partners include the Alzheimer’s Association, Leading Age Maine, Maine Council on Aging, MaineHealth, Maine Hospital Association, Maine Long Term Care Ombudsman, Maine Medical Association, Maine Public Health Association, Maine Osteopathic Association, and Northern Light. 

You can learn more at:
Staff contact:

Remember ME Event - Sponsors Needed!

Our appreciation to those who have already sponsored our upcoming Remember ME ceremony being held live on May 9 at the Augusta Civic Center. We are still in need of sponsors for the following areas:
  • Event Sponsors: $6,000 (4 sponsors at $1,500 each) (helps defray the cost of residents' exhibits, photography, and venue)
  • Program Booklet: $3,000 (3 sponsors at $1,000 each) 2 AVAILABLE
  • Live Stream/Videography: $1,750 (2 sponsors at $875 each)
  • Refreshments: $1,500 (2 sponsors at $750 each) 1 AVAILABLE
  • Decorations/Flowers: $1,250 (2 sponsors at $625 each) 1 AVAILABLE
  • Music: $500 SOLD
  • Achievement Awards: $425 SOLD
All sponsors will be recognized on promotional, media, and event materials. We appreciate any assistance you can lend. We look forward to celebrating safely with members and residents at this event.
Please secure your sponsorship today!

Staff contact:

5 Star Provider Reports Available

The Five Star Preview Reports for February 22, 2024, will soon be accessible. As a reminder,  Provider Preview Reports are now housed in iQIES. To find the Provider Preview Report in iQIES, follow these steps:

Access iQIES at via this link  using your Health Care Quality Information Systems (HCQIS) Access Roles and Profile (HARP) credentials.

Choose the My Reports option from the Reports menu.

Navigate to the Provider Preview Reports folder on the My Reports page.

Nursing Home Care Compare will incorporate the January Five Star data around February 28, 2024.

Note: The 5 Star Help line (800-839-9290) will operate from February 26 to March 1, 2024.
For assistance with logging into iQIES or finding the Provider Preview Reports, contact the iQIES Service Center via email    iQIES@CMS.HHS.GOV   or phone (800-339-9313).
Staff contact:

Avoiding F 884 Tag

The most frequently cited F Tag in nursing homes is F 884, which addresses infection control protocols. In addition to implementing standard infection control measures, F Tag 884 underscores the importance of reporting to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) on a weekly basis. This reporting requirement is crucial for ensuring compliance with F Tag 884 and is utilized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to assess nursing home performance.
Failure to report, or to report in a timely manner, has led to a significant number of citations and fines. To support nursing homes in meeting this requirement, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) has developed a helpful tips sheet. It is essential for nursing homes to review and share this resource with their Infection Preventionists (IPs) to facilitate accurate and timely reporting and avoid potential citations. Compliance with reporting obligations not only demonstrates a commitment to resident safety but also mitigates the risk of penalties and fines imposed for non-compliance.
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Providers Required to Submit Managing Employee Information to Provider Enrollment Records Immediately

On February 8, 2024, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) MLN Connects newsletter,  provided clarification to providers regarding the status of and skilled nursing facility (SNF) medical directors and administrators as managing employees for Medicare provider enrollment. According to the newsletter, these roles are consistently considered managing employees, necessitating their inclusion in provider enrollment documentation. Providers were urged to ensure the reporting of all current managing employees, emphasizing the immediate reporting of any previously unreported medical directors or administrators.
CMS further communicated, via an email to AHCA/NCAL, that the required information could be submitted through a CMS-855A change of information (COI) submission. SNFs were advised to access information regarding the COI process for reporting SNF medical directors and administrators either through the CMS enrollment website or by reaching out to their local Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC).
Prior to this notification, ambiguity existed regarding the method of reporting these individuals—whether it should be through a COI submission or during the subsequent revalidation period. However, this notice clarified that providers should not postpone reporting until revalidation and should instead promptly submit any missing medical director or administrator details through the COI submission process.
Furthermore, in the CMS final rule dated November 17, 2023 (CMS-6084-F), titled "Disclosures of Ownership and Additional Disclosable Parties Information for Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Facilities; Medicare Providers’ and Suppliers’ Disclosure of Private Equity Companies and Real Estate Investment Trusts," CMS amended the regulatory definition of "Managing Employee" in 42 CFR 424.502 to explicitly encompass hospice or skilled nursing facility administrators and medical directors.
Providers were directed to consult the Medicare Program Integrity Manual regarding updates to the CY 2024 Home Health Prospective Payment System, particularly the MLN Matters article, for comprehensive information on changes to the Medicare Program Integrity manual. This update includes revisions to the definition of "managing employee," which also affects SNFs.
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