Md. Nursing Homes Panicking Over Assuming Costs of COVID-19 Tests

    The high cost of COVID-19 tests is causing panic in the nursing home industry in Maryland, as state leaders have said the facilities themselves will soon need to pick up the tab for required weekly testing.

    Under current state health regulations, all nursing home staff members across Maryland must be tested each week for COVID-19.

    The state has been paying for the tests, but facilities are now being told to have their own plans in place to cover the cost starting Aug. 15.

    “Nursing homes must submit a plan to coordinate their own ongoing weekly staff testing,” said Allison Ciborowski, president of LeadingAge Maryland, a group that represents nonprofit nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the state.

    “There are real concerns about the cost of this.”

    With each test costing about $100 to $125, a nursing home with 300 employees may need to pay up to $37,500 per week or $150,000 per month, she said.

    “This coupled with all of the increased costs related to personal protective equipment really is putting a huge burden on providers that they are not set up to manage,” said Ciborowski.

    Even if facilities receive federal aid to help cover costs, the ongoing testing is likely to be overwhelming, according to Ciborowski.

    And while health insurance typically will cover testing for someone if it is a single test and there is concern that the person may have the coronavirus, it does not cover “surveillance testing,” where someone is being tested weekly as a precaution.

    Health officials in Virginia and Washington, D.C., also recommend weekly testing at long-term care facilities, but Maryland has been stricter, actively punishing nursing homes that do not comply with regulations.

    Ciborowski said the industry is continuing to negotiate with the state ahead of the Aug. 15 deadline.

    “A lot remains to be seen,” said Ciborowski.

    Ciborowski said that Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s administration has been “collaborative” and that she is hopeful they “can partner to find some potential solutions.”

    As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Nick Iannelli. Click here for the WTOP News website.