Editor’s note: This story has been substantially changed after additional reporting to clarify rate increases for long-term care facilities with units dedicated to COVID-19 patients. An earlier version of this story stated that the state cap on wages for certain nurses would be raised, but we have not yet received confirmation of that.
On Wednesday, state officials announced that they are committing to additional funding to support long-term care facilities that have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. However, regulatory changes that would boost pay for certain nurses in these facilities were not confirmed at the governor’s press conference, despite reports that an announcement would be forthcoming.
In early April, the state announced increase funding for MassHealth, including an across the board rate increase of 10 percent for nursing facilities. On Wednesday, the state announced that if these facilities create units that are dedicated to dealing with coronavirus patients they will receive an additional 15 percent rate increase. Massachusetts is committing approximately $50 million for this effort.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said she expects that two-thirds of the nursing facilities in the state will be able to create these units and receive a total rate increase of 25 percent.
“We are intensely focused on the spread of illness and making certain that our nursing home residents are receiving the care they need during this unprecedented public health emergency,” said Sudders at Wednesday’s press conference.
She also praised those who work in long-term care facilities and said their sacrifice is not always recognized. “Each and every day — despite what sometimes we read in the papers — nursing home CNAs [certified nursing assistants], workers, staff come to work to take care of some of our most vulnerable older adults and I don’t want people to forget that,” she said.
While there have been calls for the state to temporarily lift regulations on how much certain nursing home nurses are paid, Sudders did not address this regulatory change.
The Boston Globe reported on Tuesday that state officials has plans to lift the cap on pay for temp nurses who are placed by agencies. WGBH News has reached out to HHS representatives for confirmation.
The obscure state regulation caps the amount that nurses — who come through temporary nurses agencies to fill empty shifts in nursing homes — can be paid. That cap has meant some of these nurses are heading across state lines to work in neighboring states that offer hazard pay and higher wages.
“We're effectively bleeding the supply and the talent outside of Massachusetts and we're not allowing our facilities that are in desperate need right now to be fully staffed,” David Coppins previously told WGBH News. Coppins runs a temporary nursing agency called IntelyCare.
Coppins has called on the state to temporarily lift the wage cap. He was watching Wednesday’s press conference hoping for the state to make such an announcement. He said he was disappointed when he did not hear Sudders address this concern.