Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today wrote to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma regarding several issues related to the outbreak of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country. Grassley expressed concerns about testing capacity, inconsistencies in data tracking, a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and transparency in federal spending.
“The death toll due to COVID-19 among these residents—especially those with preexisting conditions—is concerning. It is also concerning that nearly two-thirds of the nation’s nursing homes were cited for infection control failures in the recent past,” Grassley wrote. “Such factors underscore the importance of encouraging coronavirus testing and compliance with CDC guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission in these facilities. It also is important to ensure that any Medicaid- and Medicare-funded facilities accepting COVID-19 patients have adequate staffing, equipment, and other necessary safeguards in place.”
In his letter, Grassley requested detailed information from HHS and CMS regarding federal efforts to assist long-term care facilities and other health care providers in testing for COVID-19, obtaining personal protective equipment and promoting uniform reporting of cases.
Grassley also encouraged the Administration to issue federal guidelines for states to promote uniformity in tracking and reporting COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities participating in the Medicaid and Medicare programs. Grassley commended the Administration’s outreach to Congress during its initial disbursement of taxpayer dollars from the $100 billion Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act and encouraged the Administration to commit to weekly updates.
Grassley requested that HHS and CMS respond within the week to his letter.
Nearly 6,000 older Americans residing in nursing homes have died from COVID-19. Nursing home residents account for a majority of COVID-19 related deaths in Iowa.
Grassley’s full letter can be found HERE.