The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has rejected Families for Better Care’s proposal to acquire rapid testing machines for every nursing home using the hundreds of millions of dollars in collected nursing home fines languishing in state and federal coffers.
The rejection of this coronavirus testing solution is a catastrophic healthcare and fiscal failure by President Trump’s team that will result in more deaths of our loved ones living and working in nursing homes.
“We have been pressing the administration for months to unlock these funds so rapid testing machines could be purchased for nursing homes,” said Brian Lee, Families for Better Care’s executive director. “The rejection of this coronavirus testing solution is a catastrophic healthcare and fiscal failure by President Trump’s team that will result in more deaths of our loved ones living and working in nursing homes."
What’s especially baffling about the decision is the explanation as to why the plan was rejected. Federal officials cited “cost” and “scalability” factors as reasons for denial. This is puzzling since the plan proposed using nursing home fines that are readily available at no charge to taxpayers and, given the fact, that President Trump can exercise his authority under the Defense Production Act to tackle any scalability issues. Moreover, the injection of funds into nursing home coffers under the CARES ACT Provider Relief Fund, and the Health and Human Services’ more recent $4.9 billion nursing home bailout package, have not done enough to improve testing accessibility.
Yet despite CMS’s confusing fiscal explanation, it’s the administration’s refusal to help nursing homes acquire these lifesaving devices that is the clear and present danger to residents and staff.
“Molecular point of care testing machines would give nursing homes the edge in their fight against COVID19,” Lee said. “Since rapid test machines offer lightning quick results in minutes, rather than days or even weeks, this would vastly improve medical personnel’s clinical capability to identify and target outbreaks in real-time, something they’re not even remotely close to accomplishing now.”
Another tragic casualty of this terrible policy decision is that these machines would have proven beneficial in supporting states’ reopening of America’s nursing homes to the public. Families could have been reunited sooner with their loved ones if the machines were onsite. Friends and relatives could have been tested prior to entry to ensure they are virus-free, guaranteeing no threat to residents or staff. Now there’s even more uncertainty about when visitation restrictions may be lifted.
Families for Better Care is calling on President Trump to overturn the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ decision before it’s too late. The longer the administration delays in providing a national testing solution for nursing homes the larger the body count will be and the longer families will be separated from each other.
Brian Lee, Executive Director
Families for Better Care