Category: Featured News

Welcome to the Featured News category. The following news items include major developments in the aging services world, as well as important notifications and timely reminders.

LTC Imperative Urges Lawmakers to Address Urgent Assisted Living Issues

Even as assisted living licensure applications opened last week and state legislators entered their final weeks of the legislative session, there continue to be substantive and technical issues with the assisted living licensure law, jeopardizing the access to needed assisted living services for Minnesota seniors. 

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Applications for Assisted Living License and AL Directors Go Live

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released the application for assisted living licensure late last week. Additionally, the Board for Executives for Long-term Services and Supports (BELTSS) has launched the application for legacy licensed assisted living directors.

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MDH Submits Modifications to Assisted Living Licensure Rule, Requests Reconsideration

On April 16, MDH filed a response to the Proposed Assisted Living Licensure Rules to the Office of Administrative hearings and requested that Chief Judge Starr review and approve the rule with the modifications proposed. Modifications were made necessary dues to the disapproval of certain aspects of the rule as originally submitted. Other modifications were suggested by the Administrative Law Judge for clarity. 

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CDC, CMS Publish Updated Guidance for Healthcare IP&C in Response to COVID Vaccinations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published updated infection prevention and control recommendations in response to COVID-19 vaccinations yesterday. Following closely behind the CDC, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published two revised memos yesterday as well: QSO 20-38 and QSO 20-39. The QSO memos are revised with the recent CDC guidance updates.

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HHS Renews Public Health Emergency Declaration

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took action to extend the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) for another 90 days, effective April 21, 2021.

The PHE will now be in place until July 20, and the Section 1135 emergency blanket waivers for nursing facilities will continue over that time unless CMS terminates explicitly one or more of the waivers before that date.

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Rising Positivity Rates Means More Testing for Care Centers

After rising to very high levels in late 2020, positivity rates of COVID-19 tests in Minnesota dropped dramatically in early 2021. In addition to providing a welcome drop in cases in long-term care settings, it also meant a reduced testing burden in care centers where a federal mandate ties surveillance testing frequency to the county positivity rate.

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Proposals Advance in Minnesota House that Could Impact Housing Providers

Last week, after a lengthy debate, the Minnesota House approved the Omnibus Housing Bill (HF 1077) on a 69-62 vote. The bill, authored by Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul), includes a variety of budget and policy provisions related to housing and will now move to the Senate, where Sen. Rick Draheim (R-Madison Lake) is the sponsor of the companion bill (SF 969). However, there are stark differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, so lawmakers will likely need a conference committee to work out differences between the two legislative bodies.

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Office of Administrative Hearings Released Report on Proposed Assisted Living Licensure Rules

The Assisted Living Licensure (ALL) Rules Report was issued late last week from Chief Judge Starr and Judge Ann O’Reilly.

Several parts of the proposed rule were disapproved, and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) must now decide whether to correct the defects associated with the proposed rules. The Department has several options. It can adopt the corrective actions described by the ALJ and Chief Judge to cure the defects, or it can submit its proposed rules to the Legislative Coordinating Commission for advice and comment. That can take up to 60 days and seems unlikely to be used in this case.

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New! BELTSS Releases Assisted Living Director Licensure Application

The Minnesota Board of Executives for Long-Term Services and Supports (BELTSS) has announced that Minnesota Rule 6400.5000 regarding the licensing of assisted living directors has been approved, allowing the legal authority to begin online applications on April 19. Application information and online application can be accessed via the Board’s website.

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CMS Ends Four Blanket Waivers and Clarifies Nursing Assistant Issue

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a policy memo on April 8, announcing the termination of several 1135 waivers related to resident transfers, care plans, and assessments. CMS believes that facilities should have developed processes to comply with the standard regulatory requirements relating to these practices at this stage in the pandemic. These specific waivers, implemented because of the COVID-19 public health emergency, will end on May 10.

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House Includes Proposed Changes to Assisted Living Licensure Laws

As part of the Minnesota Legislature's budget process, the House of Representatives has included in its Health and Human Services (HHS) omnibus budget bills critical changes to the assisted living licensure law that could significantly disrupt implementation.

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Moratorium Exceptions Process Available Funding Increased

Due to a cancellation of a previously approved moratorium exception project, there is now $821,088 in state funding available in the current moratorium exceptions rounds, up from the $702,144 announced in January. The Long-Term Care Imperative is pushing for additional funding in the current legislature to conduct another round later this year and is glad to see the Senate supporting additional funding, which is much needed to upgrade physical plants to make infection control efforts more effective.

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Senior Care Proposals Unveiled in House and Senate Budget Bills

Lawmakers resumed legislative activity this week following a one-week break to observe the Easter and Passover holidays. It is a pivotal week as lawmakers unveil budget bills and will need to pass bills out to their respective committees by Friday. Next week, we expect lawmakers will begin to pass these budget bills off the House and Senate floors, which will set up three-way budget negotiations between the House, Senate and Governor as they attempt to complete their work to pass a balanced budget by May 17.

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Senate Votes to Extend Sequestration Suspension

Last Thursday, the US Senate voted to extend the suspension of the 2% sequestration cut for all Medicare services through the end of 2021. Congress initiated sequestration in 2011 to limit Medicare costs by reducing all payments by 2%. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sequestration was suspended for a year by Congress last April 1. The coming expiration of that suspension led to the Congressional activity to extend it further.

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Midpoint in the 2021 Legislative Session: What’s Happened and What’s Next

Minnesota’s 2021 legislative session is at the midpoint, as lawmakers are on break this week in observance of the Easter and Passover holidays. When lawmakers resume legislative activity on April 5, it will be full steam ahead as lawmakers will push to pass budget and policy bills before the legislative session adjourns on May 17.

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MDH Publishes Updated Activities and Dining Guidance for Assisted Living Settings

Yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) published updated guidance which allows for more flexibility for dining and guidance in assisted living settings.

Activities and meals are a significant factor in combating social isolation and bringing a sense of normalcy and stability to our resident’s lives.

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Missed Week at the Capitol? It’s Not Too Late to Become an Advocate

As we approach the midway point of the legislative session, LeadingAge Minnesota members virtually gathered for our largest advocacy event of the year, the Week at the Capitol. LeadingAge Minnesota members met with over 40 lawmakers from around the state, including Senate and House legislative leaders, to make their voices heard and advance important policy initiatives for seniors and their caregivers.

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Assisted Living Licensure Rules Report Deadline Extended

The Department of Health’s proposed rules governing assisted living facilities are pending before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Ann O’Reilly. We anticipated that ALJ O’Reilly would issue her Rule Report last week. Instead, Chief Administrative Law Judge Jenny Starr issued an order extending the deadline allowing until Monday, March 29, to complete the Rule Report.

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DHS Delays Submission of COVID-19 Cost Schedule Indefinitely

Last week, DHS postponed the special COVID-19 supplemental cost report schedule to track the receipt and use of state and federal funds related to pandemic response until May 3. However, after further reflection on the lack of federal guidance on the reporting of provider relief funds to the federal government, DHS has decided to postpone the submission of the COVID schedule by care centers indefinitely.

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MDH Publishes Guidance, Eases Restrictions in Congregate Care Settings

State and federal regulators provided updated guidance that allows for more visitors to enter our building with fewer restrictions and allows for vaccinated residents to leave our settings without the requirement of a 14-day quarantine in some instances. Just this morning, MDH posted updated Long-term Care Guidance for Non-medically Necessary Outings, Long-term Care Visitation Guidance for Nursing Facilities and Assisted Living–type Settings, and two flowcharts to inform congregate care settings of the guidance updates linked later in this story. In these guidance documents, MDH adopted the QSO 20-39-NH revised memo for assisted living communities; and, adopted the CMS recommendations for health care settings.

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