New CMS Regulations Address High Rates of COVID-19 in Nursing Homes

A June 1 news release issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) says the agency is “increasing enforcement (e.g., civil money penalties (CMPs)) for [nursing home] facilities with persistent infection control violations, and imposing enforcement actions on lower level infection control deficiencies to ensure they are addressed with increased gravity.” According to CMS, the new regulations were developed in response to high rates of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, as well as data regarding the results of infection control inspections.

As of May 24, 2020, data cited in the release indicates that 26,000 nursing homes residents have died from the virus and 60,000 have been infected. Actual numbers are likely higher because, as noted by The Washington Post, these statistics only reflect cases that have occurred since early May. Key provisions outlined in the agency’s directive emphasize reporting, transparency and information sharing since these strategies are “proven to be one of the keys to battling this pandemic.”

CMS Administrator Seema Verma stated, “it’s entirely possible to keep nursing home patients safe” if a facility closely adheres to federal safety requirements. Because nursing home populations are particularly “vulnerable to complications arising from COVID-19,” the agency plans to support long-term care facilities through Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs), or with experts dedicated to helping healthcare professionals improve the quality of care delivered to patients. As stated in the CMS release, these efforts will include:

Long-term care facilities and providers are encouraged to review the agency’s new guidance to ensure compliance with the requirements, as well as its toolkit on actions to mitigate COVID-19 prevalence in nursing homes.  

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