HHS plans to send about $333 million to more than 10,000 nursing homes based on performance, the agency said Wednesday.
The payments, made through the Health Resources and Services Administration, are being directed to nursing homes that reduced COVID-19 deaths and infections from August to September, HHS said.
"These $333 million in performance payments are going to nursing homes that have maintained safer environments for residents between August and September," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. "We've provided nursing homes with resources and training to improve infection control, and we're rapidly providing incentives to those facilities that are making progress in the fight against COVID-19."
The payments are the first in a five-phase $2-billion incentive program, the Nursing Home Quality Incentive Program, HHS announced in September and will be delivered next week.
In the first round, 10,631 nursing homes — more than 77% of those eligible — met the program's infection control criteria, HHS said. Month over month, those nursing homes decreased COVID-19 infections by 5,000.
In all, 10,501 nursing homes, or 76% of those eligible, met the program's infection control and mortality criteria, reducing deaths by 1,200 from August to September, HHS said.
"We know that nursing homes in communities with high infection rates are more susceptible to COVID infections. Today's HHS announcement shows us that over three-quarters of eligible nursing homes beat those odds," said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of not-for-profit providers of aging services, including nursing homes. "This is a testament to the perseverance and commitment of nursing homes to ensuring residents' well-being under tremendously challenging circumstances."
Smith Sloan said the results of the program show that nursing homes can better protect residents and workers with more funding and resources.
"With a rising count of over 60,000 nursing home deaths to-date, this is no time to declare victory and walk away," Smith Sloan said.
In the U.S., there have been 260,573 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 147,029 suspected cases and 60,491 deaths, according to the latest CMS data.