White House Commission Urges Feds for More Resources (But Not Enforcement) in Nursing Homes

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The White House’s Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes released an extensive report reviewing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and making recommendations to improve safety in nursing homes related to infection control.  The report sets forth dozens of potential “action steps” for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other federal and state agencies to take to foster better infection control involving:

  • COVID-19 testing
  • providing PPE and training staff to use it
  • updating resident visitation and cohorting policies to be more sensitive to the balance between safety and quality of life; and
  • supporting staff/caregivers.

Essentially, the report calls for more funding and guidance from the government to nursing homes.  The report is notably missing recommendations regarding better enforcement of nursing home standards of care and are meant to reduce the spread of infection and enhance resident well-being.  

Commission member Eric Carlson of Justice in Aging refused to endorse the report, instead writing a three-page rebuke of the report’s failures.  Eric writes “[the report] recommends dozens of obligations for the federal government, but does little to set higher standards for nursing homes, or to ensure nursing home accountability.”  The report sets up CMS to act as financial supporter, consultant, and educator to nursing homes rather than its legal role as an enforcement agency charged with consumer protection.  A similar effort to transform regulators from enforcers to job coaches has taken root in California and threatens to further degrade regulatory compliance.