On March 4, 2020, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memo to State Survey Agency Directors to suspend “non-emergency inspections.” The CMS memo says the directive is designed to help inspectors focus on strategic threats, including complaints of COVID-19 and complaints of abuse and neglect. Although the stated purpose of the memo is a response to the threat of COVID-19, the CMS has been seeking to repeal this surveyor guidance since October of 2017.
The CMS expressed its desire to reallocate inspectors’ time and resources away from random inspections and gave an enumerated prioritization of inspections. That list put inspections of immediate jeopardy complaints of abuse and neglect first and COVID-19 and respiratory infections second, followed by others.
The memo states: “Specifically, CMS is suspending non-emergency inspections across the country, allowing inspectors to turn their focus on the most serious health and safety threats like infectious diseases and abuse.” The “non-emergency inspections” appears to refer to the current surveyor guidance, enacted by President Obama, for unannounced on-site inspections, which were originally established as part of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law, signed by President Reagan.
In February 2018, Toby S. Edelman, a Senior Policy Attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy, commented on the CMS 2017 position in Bifocal, an American Bar Association journal:
“Through sub-regulatory guidance – that is, guidance below the level of regulations that is implemented without notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedures Act – the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has essentially eviscerated the enforcement system. … On October 27, 2017, CMS proposed repealing and replacing surveyor guidance that the Obama Administration issued in July 2016. Remarkably, the American Health Care Association (AHCA), the large nursing home trade association, had explicitly requested replacement of the Obama guidance, which it identified by number, in its December 2016 letter to President-Elect Trump.”
Those with concerns about this policy are invited to contact the CMS at QSOG_EmergencyPrep@cms.hhs.gov.
The attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC specialize in representing nursing home residents who have been neglected or abused. We know, first-hand, how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable residents are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options.
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