How much will it cost to test every Texas nursing home for COVID-19?

Nursing Home Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — What would it cost to test every Texas nursing home resident and employee one time?

According to data released American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), the total cost of administering just one round of testing to every nursing facility in the state would be approximately $29,001,150.

Their calculation was built using census data, information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Employment from 2019, and an estimated cost of $150 per test.

The organization released a statement explaining how the cost of ongoing testing would be “unsustainable” without additional government support and funding. They added that the CDC’s recent recommendation to test all nursing home staff weekly could cost more than $1 billion every month.

“For months now, we have been advocating for expanded and priority testing in nursing homes to protect our residents and caregivers, but this is a significant undertaking and cost for nursing homes to shoulder on their own. That’s why we have asked HHS to grant our request for a $10 billion emergency relief to help fund expedited testing and the additional staffing needed to respond to this unprecedented health crisis,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said an actual cost estimate for widespread testing is “still being calculated.”

“It’s expected costs will be reimbursable by the federal government,” the spokesperson told KXAN.

Governor Greg Abbott ordered widespread testing for these vulnerable communities in mid-May. Last week, he told KXAN the goal was for every nursing home in Texas to complete testing by the end of this week.

According to HHSC, approximately 805 nursing facilities have completed testing, out of 1,220 statewide. The spokesperson for the agency said testing was underway at about 45 more facilities on Friday.

They explained that testing is being administered, in most cases, at the local level by local health departments and fire departments. Additionally, more testing is being done by Texas Emergency Medical Task Force and Texas Military Department. These entities are then required to report the number of completed facilities to the State Operations Center.

“So we expect these numbers to increase steadily,” the spokesperson said.

Austin-Travis County

Austin Public Health has reported all 33 homes in the area have completed testing.

Note: APH initially reported 32 total nursing homes to test, as listed in a memo last week, but an additional nursing home located in Williamson County was assigned to APH by the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System.

APH provided test kits and facilitated testing at nine facilities prior to the governor’s order and at 10 facilities after the order. They reported provided only test kits to eight facilities. Six local facilities conducted testing without assistance from APH.

A spokesperson said, “Some nursing homes used private labs to conduct their own testing under consultation with their assigned testing team per the State. Others were tested through the local fire department, Emergency Medical Task Force team at the direction of the state or Texas Military Department Mobile Testing Teams at the direction of the state.”

At $70 per test, APH estimated the cost at approximately $354,000.

At Thursday’s special called city council meeting, city staff announced $3 million in funding has been designated for testing in nursing homes and assisted living, strike teams, personal protective equipment and a Long-term care facility study. 

“The testing is the biggest price, the biggest cost,” District 5 council member Ann Kitchen said, but also called it the “key” to fighting the spread.

A spokesperson for the city confirmed some of that $3 million in funding has already been spent on the testing efforts in nursing homes “so far.”

“We authorize the level of funding that’s necessary,” Kitchen said. “Go make this happen. Give us your best estimate, you know. Put in a contingency for additional funds you might need, then go make this happen.”

She said the plan includes funds for re-testing at facilities in some cases.

Williamson County

In Williamson County, 10 of the 14 nursing facilities have completed testing.

A spokesperson for the county said the rest of the homes are expected to be tested by June 8.

The spokesperson told KXAN it takes roughly 80 hours for a “Strike Team” to test each facility. Plus, they said State of Texas Assistance Requests (STARs) are necessary to obtain testing supplies, which could cause delays.

They reported using a combination of state and county supplies.

“Only staff time from County, Cities and Health District (Strike Team) is being expended. Some facilities performed their own testing at their expense,” the spokesperson told KXAN. “Since multiple jurisdictions are testing, it is unknown what the total staffing cost is.”

They said a total cost for testing initiative has not been calculated.

Hays County

Hays County officials completed testing their six nursing homes last Friday.

A task force made up of area fire departments, emergency medical personnel, and county health personnel conducted the tests, which were sent to a local private lab.

A spokesperson said, “All of the testing is being paid by the State directly to the private lab. The City is eligible for reimbursement for other expenses from TDEM, through the CARES Act.”

TDEM is the Texas Department of Emergency Management.

Assisted Living

Widespread testing has not been mandated statewide for assisted living facilities.

ACHA/NCAL estimates the cost of testing both nursing and assisted living homes in Texas one time could be ask much as $41,653,050.

Kitchen said Austin Public Health’s plan includes testing at some assisted living facilities.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Investigations

More Investigations

Latest Central Texas COVID-19 Cases

More Coronavirus Live Blogs

Trending Stories

Don't Miss