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The Blame Game

Published on June 22nd, 2020

A grim blame game between Trump and the nursing home industry is breaking out over COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents,  the population that represents a shockingly high proportion of Americans who have died during the pandemic. Advocates for older people say the federal government hasn’t provided needed virus testing and sufficient protective gear to assist nursing homes to operate safely.

The Trump administration has been pointing to a segment of the industry — facilities with low federal ratings for infection control.  Nursing homes that complied with known federal infection control guidelines were able to prevent or contain the virus, asserts Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. “Trying to finger-point and blame the federal government is absolutely ridiculous,” she says.

Verma says data collected by her agency suggest a connection between bad facilities with low ratings on safety inspections and COVID-19 outbreaks.

“The lack of federal coordination certainly has impeded facilities’ ability to identify infected persons and to provide care,” Eric Carlson, a long-term care expert with the advocacy group Justice in Aging, told lawmakers.

Nationwide, more than 55,000 residents and staff have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. That’s about 45% of more than 120,000 total deaths. Nursing home residents are less than 1% of the U.S. population.

Incredibly, CMS head Verma said her agency has been on top of things from the beginning, issuing numerous safety guidelines, setting new coronavirus reporting requirements, and providing Medicare payment for testing residents.

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