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CMS Considers Rolling Back Nursing Home Infection Controls

Nurse helping an older woman

Nursing Homes Face New Threats

There’s no question that nursing homes face some of the greatest threats from the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. Aside from housing seniors – the demographic group most likely to die or become seriously ill when infected with COVID-19 – nursing homes have long had a difficult time preventing infections among their residents. In fact, infection is still currently the leading cause of death and illness at nursing homes.

In spite of these facts, however, the Trump administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are seriously considering a dramatic rollback of nursing home infection controls. The proposed rule, which was first submitted by the CMS last year, would relax the existing infection control standards and allow nursing homes to have more say in these measures. This isn’t even the first time that the CMS has pushed to deregulate nursing homes in recent months. Back in March, the CMS issued a memo to suspend random inspections, citing COVID-19 concerns even though it had been pushing for the same change since October 2017.

The proposed rule would include the following changes:

  • Remove requirements for infection specialists to work “part-time” and allow facilities to determine “sufficient time” on their own
  • Reduce facility-wide infection assessments to once every other year instead of annually
  • Permit facilities to disregard requirements capping residents at 2 per room

In defending the proposed rule, the CMS has argued that it will eliminate “burdensome” requirements for nursing homes and long-term care facilities, allowing them more flexibility to bring on infection specialists for full-time work. Unfortunately, however, health experts have resoundingly agreed that this rule change will only harm our nation’s most vulnerable seniors.

How Could the Rule Change Impact Seniors?

At Brown & Barron, LLC, our nursing home attorneys have seen plenty of cases where nursing homes and long-term care facilities failed to prevent the spread of even known and preventable infectious diseases among residents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 380,000 people die of these infections in long-term care facilities every year, with up to 3 million infections in total among residents.

Because of this ongoing problem, most public health experts and professionals were already in unanimous agreement that the government should be increasing infection controls for nursing homes – not reducing them. Now that COVID-19 has infected over 97,000 nursing home residents across the country, nursing homes have an even greater responsibility to be careful, especially without a verified treatment or vaccine in sight.

“With COVID-19, we’re going to see tens of thousands of deaths in nursing homes due to weak infection controls. For the CMS to suggest a policy change to make those regulations even weaker, the timing is ludicrous, and the explanation defies common sense,” said Brian Brown, our founding partner. Other advocates have also voiced strong disagreement with the rule change, calling the proposed measures a “slap in the face of residents” and “exactly the wrong thing” in an article for USA Today. Although the rule change is far from guaranteed, it is still troubling that the federal government and CMS would even consider this measure in light of the statistics: In Maryland alone, there were at least 4,707 COVID-19 cases documented in nursing homes as of early May.

If you suspect that your loved one may have suffered needlessly due to a lack of proper infection control or lax procedures at their nursing home, our team is ready and able to take on your case. With a focus on complex nursing home cases and a passion for helping our clients achieve justice, Brown & Barron, LLC can fight for your loved ones after a preventable COVID-19 diagnosis.

Contact us at (410) 698-1717 today for more information about how we can help.