State Launches Second Round of Nursing-home Reforms

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration has begun implementing its second round of comprehensive nursing-home reforms to keep older adults safe, improve the standards of care and infection control, and respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the Accountability and Supports Package 2.0 announced in September, the first phase includes $82 million in restructured Medicaid rates and immediate steps to eliminate three- and four-bed rooms in nursing homes. In addition, the state released updated surveillance testing guidance for nursing homes and rest homes and announced new funding for assisted-living residences (ALRs) to support surveillance testing.

The administration’s long-term-care staff surveillance testing guidance aligns with federal guidance. Surveillance testing is a critical way for facilities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and better protect high-risk residents. The updated guidance ensures all staff are tested at least once each month, with additional testing in facilities with new COVID-19 cases or in high-positivity areas. While nursing homes and rest homes are required to adhere to the surveillance testing guidance, ALRs are recommended to do so.

The administration also announced strengthened flu-vaccine requirements for staff at nursing homes, rest homes, ALRs, adult day health programs, and dialysis units to protect vulnerable residents and providers. The order eliminates the option for staff to opt out of getting a flu vaccine, with exemptions only for medical or religious reasons.