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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Indiana ranks in top 10 for estimated testing cost in nursing homes

Forty-eight percent of COVID-19 deaths in Indiana are in nursing facilities. According to the American Health Care Association, COVID-19 testing could top $440 million for the nation’s nursing home residents and staff combined.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The numbers are revealing.

Forty-eight percent of COVID-19 deaths in Indiana are in nursing facilities.

The state data comes as health officials confirm Indiana can not test every nursing home resident as requested by the federal government.

The federal government’s clock to get all nursing home residents and staff tested within 14 days has expired.

“Unfortunately, that is not going to happen,” said Dr Kris Box, Indiana’s State Health Commissioner, answering a question about the President’s request to do exhaustive testing in long-term care facilities nationwide.

Indiana and nearly half of the country couldn’t get it done. And according to published reports, some state leaders didn’t even try.

New data shows the staggering costs of testing.

According to the American Health Care Association, COVID-19 testing could top $440 million for the nation’s nursing home residents and staff combined.

The breakdown in Indiana is just over $13 million. That’s testing for more than 86,000 residents and staff.

The State Department of Health estimated 100,000 residents and staff would need testing.

In fact, Indiana is among the top 10 states with the highest cost, number of facilities and nursing home patients.

“We have reviewed the guidance that has come out from CMS and have been discussing that with our long-term care facilities,” Dr Box added, in explaining the state’s position.

In its guidance for nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services calls for:

  • All nursing home residents to receive a single baseline COVID- 19 test.
  • All nursing home staff (including volunteers and vendors who are in the facility on a weekly basis) to receive a single baseline COVID-19 test, with re-testing of all staff continuing every week.

“We are working to make sure that we are testing, all of our employees of long-term care facilities and that we have the opportunity to either connect them with optimum sites or to actually do that testing in the facilities for them, or to be able to provide them with the test kits," Dr Box said.

CMS said without baseline and follow up testing capacity for both residents and staff, states should not reopen nor relax nursing home restrictions. It means the most vulnerable will remain secluded from family and friends.

“The frequency of (re-testing) remains to be seen, based on some more information I think that we'll hope to see come out from the CDC and further guidance from CMS,” said Dr Box, who suggests facilities take on the responsibility of follow-up testing internally.

The cost estimates are based on a $150 COVID-19 test/person. The recommended weekly retesting means the cost will continue to escalate.

The Department of Health and Human Services has already announced nearly $5 billion in funding to help offset some of that cost.