Nursing Home Deaths Study Prompts CMS Hardball

A recent study by a national nonprofit that found 42 percent of all Covid deaths in the U.S. are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities seems to have prompted the Trump administration to ramp up its vigilance requiring Covid case reporting by those facilities and onsite infection surveys by state health officials.

Published on May 22, the study by the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP ) prompted a wave of coverage in the national press beginning May 27 and leading to a June 1 press release by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, “Trump Administration Unveils Enhanced Enforcement Actions Based on Nursing Home Covid-19 Data and Inspection Results.”

Business Alabama reported the FREOPP study results on June 1, noting that the Alabama Covid death rate was a fraction higher than the national average, 43.7 percent. Data and calculations of the FREOPP study are available in an online spreadsheet for public review.

The “enhanced and targeted accountability measures” rolled out by CMS declares that “States that have not completed 100 percent of focused infection control surveys of their nursing home by July 31, 2020 will be required to submit a corrective action plan” and that failure 30 days after that deadline may result in a loss of 10 percent of Medicare and Medicaid funding in 2021.

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For the first time, nursing homes are required to report Covid-19 cases and deaths directly to the CDC on an ongoing basis, which the CMS said was a follow-up to an earlier CMS requirement issued May 1.

A CMS promise announced June 1 was fulfilled today with the posting of a new website page that allows the public to search for Covid data by individual nursing home and by state. That site is at this page of Data.CMS. The agency describes the site as ” downloadable so researchers and other stakeholders can perform their own in-depth analysis.”

Individual nursing homes are responsible for fulfilling the data requirements, reporting Covid case numbers and Covid deaths.

Infection control surveys of nursing homes is the responsibility of the Alabama Department of Public Health.

According to a report by the Alabama Daily News, ADPH Public Information Officer Arrol Sheehan told the news outlet Tuesday that the department was “working to obtain personal protection equipment so its staff can complete the surveys. “Once necessary PPE is obtained, (ADPH) will make completing infection control surveys in long term care by July 31, 2020, a priority.”

PPE resources have been hard to find and at greater costs at Alabama nursing homes as well, Alabama Nursing Home Association Communications Director John Matson told Business Alabama. He said some relief has come recently when the ADPH put nursing homes into the Alabama Incident Management System, a database that helps manage resources. “They put our PPE needs into the AIMS system, and as PPE resources become available, it helps us find suppliers who are reputable, and also FEMA has promised a 14 days supply for nursing homes in the country, and that is starting to be delivered,” said Matson.

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