The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that COVID-19 testing would be mandatory for nursing homes with outbreaks of the deadly virus. The regulatory change occurs just as operators of nursing homes in Maryland are complaining that the cost of testing is already too much for them to bear.
The nursing home industry has been the epicenter of the COVID-19 disaster. To date, nearly 50,000 nursing home residents have died of the disease, according to the CMS, and this figure represents roughly 30% of all the COVID deaths in the nation. To prevent the introduction of the virus, nursing homes have been on lockdown, preventing visitors or even inspectors within nursing homes. This leaves staff members as the only way for new outbreaks to occur. However, until this recent regulatory change, nursing homes only were required to test staff members under certain circumstances, such as when a staff member reported symptoms. This left a gaping vulnerability, as the disease can be spread by infected staff members with mild or even no symptoms. Plus, nursing home staff members often do not have paid sick leave, putting them in a difficult financial situation if they report symptoms and risk losing income.
Regular testing of all staff is the only way to minimize outbreaks, and some nursing homes have chosen to conduct regular testing of all staff members, but before August 25, this was not a requirement by the CMS. Although regular, universal staff testing would save lives, it would put a human resources pinch on already shorthanded nursing homes, and the testing is not cheap. In Maryland, state officials have been providing testing (approximately $75 per test) to nursing homes at no charge. That program ended in mid-August, and with a new requirement for regular testing, a lobby representing 300 nursing homes in Maryland & D.C., began complaining that testing costs would bankrupt them.
“This is an astronomical rate for those facilities to absorb,” said Danna L. Kauffman, a nursing home lobbyist at Schwartz, Metz and Wise, as quoted in an article in the Daily Record.
Under the new regulations, nursing homes will be required to test staff on a regular basis, with the frequency depending on positivity rates in their area. According to McNights Long-Term Care News, “If the positivity rate is below 5% in the surrounding county, for example, testing would be required once a month. If it’s 5% to 10%, testing would be required once a week. For rates above that, testing would be mandated twice a week.”
Nursing homes received a round of aid from the federal government to combat COVID, which was a flat $50,000 per facility, plus $2,500 per bed (a $315,000 average per facility, according to the Daily Record). A second round of aid is promised, and the Maryland State Department of Health is looking to help nursing homes get lower pricing on testing.
Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on 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.