Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it is extending coverage for administering point-of-care COVID-19 tests in congregate facilities, such as skilled nursing facilities. This extension of coverage is part of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act and overrides any state restrictions or bans on such tests.
HHS is sending point-of-care antigen test devices and an initial round of tests to every skilled nursing facility in the United States that has a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) Certificate of Waiver. Licensed healthcare practitioners at these facilities can then provide the FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests to symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.
Although it is recommended to administer these point-of-care antigen tests within five days of presenting symptoms, a positive result for asymptomatic people is a reliable source for screening purposes in skilled nursing facilities. In nursing homes, rapid point-of-care testing may be better for controlling an infection when compared to less frequent, highly sensitive testing with a longer turnaround.
Overall, skilled nursing providers across the U.S. have had positive reactions to this new coverage, though some are concerned about the disparity in testing guidance from the FDA, CDC, and CMS. Although a better option may become available in the future, rapid point-of-care testing seems to be the best option for skilled nursing facilities right now.
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