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Will It Be Too Late?

Published on April 21st, 2020

The American Health Care Association put out a recommendation April 11, calling for nationwide reporting of COVID rates and incidence at facilities.  The nursing home industry lobbyists have been pushing for immunity and a bailout.  The CDC reporting tool will ask for information on admissions, confirmed COVID-19 cases, suspected cases and deaths — regarding both residents and workers. Providers will be required to report COVID-19 numbers on a weekly basis.  The CDC will gather data from providers and pass along the information to CMS, which will then post results to the public-facing Nursing Home Compare website, or a similarly effective vehicle.  That seems vague and unlikely to happen.

So finally CMS decides to require nursing homes to report COVID-19 infections.  However, failure, intentional or not, to disclose within 12 hours and report only gets you a  fine of $1,000 per week.  That is chump change for these national for-profit chains.  And it won’t be implemented until May 1, 2020 with a “graace period” of several weeks.  Way too late for thousands of nursing home residents and their families. The “reporting tool” the agency will supply to providers is not ready yet.

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said elements of the Sunday surprise did not sit well with her group. It had supported disclosure of infections to local health authorities, residents and families, “with the expectation of prioritization for personal protective equipment and tests as our members battle this pandemic.”

“We are concerned with the specifics of the new reporting requirements, announced on Apr. 19 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, that were not previously disclosed to us,” she said in a statement early Monday.   “Without sufficient PPE and testing supplies, our members are not fairly armed to fight the novel coronavirus, and are not able to protect staff and residents,” Smith Sloan said.

“The other thing we announced last night is that [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] is particularly focused on nursing homes, and you’ll hear more about their efforts to directly supply nursing homes to ensure that they have PPE,” Verma told reporters. “From the early results of our surveys, as well as investigations, hand washing continues to be an issue. Use of PPE continues to be an issue, and probably the more significant one is isolating or cohorting patients according to their COVID status,” she said. “That continues to be a challenge for nursing homes. That’s why it’s so important for state and local officials to really support nursing homes.”

“At a very high level, I think it’s fair to say nursing homes have been at ground zero,” Verma said in response to a question asking if nursing homes were the true “front line” of the coronavirus pandemic.  She said there is now recognition among government agencies that “nursing homes can be an early predictor for communities.” Full, complete, and accurate disclosure is necessary to keep us all safe and to contain the spread of the virus.

 

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