OHCA Oregon Caregiver Spring Summer 2020

The Oregon Caregiver SPRING/SUMMER 2020 www.ohca.com 16 PUBLIC POLICY T he coronavirus pandemic has been an event unlike anything Oregon, our nation, and the long term care sector has experienced before. The health (physical as well as mental) and economic impacts have been dramatic. Not surprisingly, the response to this pandemic from federal, state, and local governments has been mixed at best. There are legions of examples of the slow response by the Federal government, overwhelmed unemployment computer systems, and the various public health agencies learning as they go and the negative impacts that have resulted. Nonetheless, Congress and state legislative leaders should also be commended for moving swiftly to provide a package of financial support for individuals, businesses, and health care providers, including long term care. The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provided valuable resources to long term care providers and workers. At the state level, Oregon leaders took action to deploy a portion of these resources in the form of a tempo- rary Medicaid rate increase to offset some of the mounting costs this crisis placed on long term care providers, additional funding for workforce training on infectious disease protocols, and funds for COVID-19 testing for frontline long term care workers. In addition, Governor Brown directed the Oregon National Guard to deliver needed personal protection equipment (PPE) to all long term care providers, including OHCA member in-home care agencies and senior living providers. Not only was the PPE sorely needed to help provide care, but the National Guard service men and women who delivered the supplies lifted the spirits and resolve of frontline workers across the state. These PPE deliveries showed that Oregon cared about them and the amazing work they’re doing, and providers were extremely grateful. In addition to these meaningful actions by the state, there have been countless meetings and conference calls between the provider community, stakeholders, and officials from the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). These commu- nications have considered the robust and wide-reaching needs this crisis has brought forth and have included changes to Oregon’s regulatory system to enable long term care providers to continue to provide quality care to residents and patients. One such change involved Oregon moving swiftly to screen and ultimately restrict visitors to long term care settings and established a system for limiting new admissions when a case of COVID-19 was suspected or confirmed. On the whole, Oregon’s long term care system has performed well in the midst of this crisis. More than 93% of the licensed long term care providers in Oregon have not had a resident test positive for COVID-19. Those providers who have experienced positive cases of COVID-19 have worked tirelessly to largely contain the spread of the virus and to provide care and services in a very challenging environment. The pandemic also turned Oregon’s historically low unemployment rates upside down in a matter of weeks. Unemployment rates skyrocketed to levels not seen since the Great Depres- sion. Consequently, families, businesses, and governments are seeing their revenues plummet and budget belt- tightening will be required. OHCA will be entering the next legisla- tive session asking legislators to support long term care providers and workers in this daunting budget environment. We are still in the midst of this crisis and now is not the time to cut essential services for seniors and employment opportunities in long term care. Phil Bentley, J.D., is the Senior Vice President of Government Relations at OHCA. The State’s Response to COVID-19 and the Road Ahead By Phil Bentley, J.D., Oregon Health Care Association