Providers struggling to comply with infection control requirements could be looking at fines of up to $20,000 under increased enforcement efforts announced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The increased enforcement is an effort by the federal government to “punish its way out of the pandemic,” LeadingAge, the association of mainly nonprofit providers, said in a statement.
“We’re ratcheting up penalties with non-compliance to infection control,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. “The fines are more significant for nursing homes with a history of past infection control deficiencies.”
Fines increase for providers that consistently perform poorly on infection control measures, according to CMS. Per a CMS memo, the fines are up to $5,000 for a provider found not in compliance with infection control requirements that’s also been cited once in the last year if the deficiencies are not widespread. If the deficiencies are widespread, the provider would face a fine of up to $10,000.
The fines go higher from there — up to $15,000 for providers that have been cited twice or more in the last two years and found non-compliant with infection control regulations where deficiencies are not widespread. The fines can reach $20,000 in that same situation if the infection control deficiencies are widespread.
“Nursing homes should be held accountable when they fall short, but escalating threats of punishment will not change the outcomes for vulnerable adults if providers are still left without the tools they desperately need,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said.
Infection control has been a major focus for providers and regulators during the public health crisis. Verma said she doesn’t see the federal government rolling back additional regulations anytime soon.
“I don’t see us moving back on our infection control guidelines. Those are longstanding. They not only apply to COVID virus but they apply to any potential infection, whether it’s the flu or anything else,” she said.
The agency also urged governors to complete focused infection control surveys at each of its nursing homes by July 31. If they don’t, they could see a reduction in CARES Act funding, she said. Verma said the focused effort on the part of the state’s is “critical” to preventing the spread of the virus and potential resurgences.
“Early analysis shows that the facilities with a one-star rating were more likely to have large numbers of COVID cases than facilities with a five-star rating,” Verma said.