After Schakowsky & 77 House Democrats Call For Nursing Home And Long-Term Care Coronavirus Data Reporting, CMS Listens But Doesn’t Go Far Enough

April 20, 2020
Press Release

EVANSTON, IL - Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, released the following statement after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they will require nursing homes to report COVID-19 cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), patients, and families and that they will make those data public:


“I’m heartened that CMS has taken some action after my call for more transparency around the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes. However, as 77 of my colleagues and I wrote to HHS Secretary Azar and CMS Administrator Verma last week, CMS must also require facilities to report all fatalities to residents, families, states, CDC, and the general public. Additionally, CMS must ensure facilities have enough tests to accurately report this information. These requirements should not wait for future rulemaking and must begin immediately. No one should have to find out their loved one has died from a media investigation. Though the Trump Administration has sabotaged nursing home quality by loosening infection control regulations, oversight, and enforcement over the past three years, I hope this marks only a first step of progress in the right direction.”


On Wednesday, April 15, 2020, Congresswoman Schakowsky led 77 of her colleagues in sending a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma asking them to work with states, localities, and private labs to immediately collect and publicly report facility-level data on the number of long-term care residents affected by the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including cases and fatalities. As reported by NBC News, the absence of comprehensive federal data risks endangering even more lives.


On April 10, 2020, Congresswoman Schakowsky and Congressman Peter King (R-NY) introduced H.R. 6487, the bipartisan, bicameral Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act, to make important investments in existing telehealth programs and create a grant program to facilitate the connection of older adults with their loved ones through virtual visits.


On March 27, 2020, provisions of Congresswoman Schakowsky and Congressman Burgess’ Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) for Health Act (H.R. 2781) were signed into law through the CARES Act. The EMPOWER for Health Act funds and expands the only federal geriatrics training program, building the under-resourced workforce of health care providers available to serve older adults and nursing home residents.


On March 11, 2020, Congresswoman Schakowsky and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma requesting they ensure all nursing homes meet infection control standards necessary to protect residents and staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that they halt the publication of a final rule to roll back an Obama Administration regulation that strengthened requirements around infection control in nursing home facilities.


On November 22, 2019, Congresswoman Schakowsky and Senator Blumenthal introduced the bicameral Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019 (H.R. 5216/S. 2943), to guarantee the human right to high quality, long term care for the seniors and individuals with disabilities who depend on nursing home facilities to survive. This legislation would address understaffing and insufficient staff training that increases residents’ risk of contracting an infection and experiencing abuse.