Chairman Neal: “The Rampant Spread of COVID-19 Across Nursing Homes Has Emerged As A Human Rights Issue”

Apr 17, 2020
Press Release
Neal Calls on Administrator Verma to Increase Transparency and Implement Regulations Specifically to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 in Nursing Homes

SPRINGFIELD, MA – In light of several news reports of high levels of transmission of COVID-19 at skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) across the country, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) urged Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to assist these facilities in protecting their residents. The number of COVID-19 cases in the nation’s long-term care facilities has doubled in the last week, and as of April 16, 2020, Massachusetts reported 4,798 confirmed COVID-19 cases across 232 long-term care facilities.

Given that nursing facilities have been ground zero for some hotspots during this crisis, Neal requested the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) require SNFs to report the number of COVID-19 positive cases of residents and staff and other key metrics to help the federal government understand the scope of the epidemic. Neal also noted the positive efforts happening in Massachusetts to manage the crisis there, including the Long-Term Care (LTC) Portal to help facilities overcome staffing shortages and encouraged CMS to work with states to implement similar creative approaches at the federal level.

“Older Americans residing in SNFs are at tremendous risk of acquiring COVID-19 and having bad outcomes because of the infection,” wrote Chairman Neal. “We must focus more on our nation’s nursing homes, particularly in the areas of transparency and infection control/crisis management.”

The Chairman went on to emphasize that, “First, transparency on COVID-19 testing and care capacity for the people that are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic – our seniors living in nursing homes across the country – is essential.”

Noting that these facilities have become the epicenter of COVID-19 spread, Chairman Neal cited horrifying stories of bodies piling up inside nursing home morgues. “The rampant spread of COVID-19 across nursing homes has emerged as a human rights issue – and we must do more to help our nation’s most vulnerable,” he added.

Full text of the letter is available HERE.

The 6/18/20 response from CMS is HERE