Clyburn Launches Sweeping Investigation into Widespread Coronavirus Deaths in Nursing Homes
Washington, D.C. (June 16, 2020)—Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, the Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, launched an investigation into the coronavirus crisis in nursing homes, sending letters to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is the federal agency that oversees nursing homes, and the nation’s five largest for-profit nursing home companies.
“The Subcommittee is concerned that lax oversight by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the federal government’s failure to provide testing supplies and personal protective equipment to nursing homes and long-term care facilities may have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus and the deaths of more than 40,000 Americans in these facilities,” Chairman Clyburn wrote. “Despite CMS’s broad legal authority, the agency has largely deferred to states, local governments, and for-profit nursing homes to respond to the coronavirus crisis.”
The Subcommittee’s investigation follows its June 11 briefing with experts and affected Americans, who warned that a lack of sufficient testing and personal protective equipment, weak oversight from the Trump Administration, and troubling business practices by for-profit nursing homes including understaffing, low pay, and lack of paid leave, have contributed to the severity of the crisis.
The Select Subcommittee is seeking information from CMS on the Trump Administration’s enforcement of health and safety regulations during the crisis, data collection, and provision of life-saving supplies. CMS is the federal agency responsible for ensuring the health and safety of nursing home residents by enforcing compliance with Medicare and Medicaid regulations.
“CMS has issued guidance for nursing homes, but this guidance has often been unclear, and CMS failed to take adequate steps to ensure that nursing homes comply with its recommendations. Deregulation and lax enforcement of infection control violations by CMS—both before and during the pandemic—may have contributed to the spread of the virus.”
Chairman Clyburn sent letters to the following for-profit nursing home companies, which collectively operate more than 850 skilled nursing facilities in 40 states, with more than 80,000 residents. Each company has had coronavirus outbreaks across multiple facilities:
· Genesis HealthCare, the nation’s largest nursing home corporation, has had at least 1,500 deaths in 187 facilities.
· Life Care Centers of America, whose Kirkland, WA facility was the site of the first major nursing home outbreak in the country, has seen at least 250 deaths across facilities.
· Ensign Group has had more than 170 deaths across multiple facilities.
· SavaSeniorCare has reported over 300 deaths, including in an August, GA facility where 98 percent of residents were infected.
· Consulate Health Care has had more than 60 deaths in multiple outbreaks.
The Subcommittee is seeking documents and information from each company related to coronavirus cases and deaths, testing, personal protective equipment, staffing levels and pay, legal violations, and efforts to prevent further infections.
The letters also seek more transparency about the use of federal funds by nursing homes during the pandemic.
“The Trump Administration’s distribution of the funds to long-term care facilities and other companies under the CARES Act and other programs has been marked by a lack of transparency. Recipients must agree to use the funds for certain purposes related to the outbreak, but there has been little public reporting on how nursing home operators have actually used the funds. Transparency is critically important to ensure that these taxpayer funds are used appropriately to help the residents and workers of long-term care facilities.”
Click here to read today’s letter to CMS.