CMS fined more than 3,400 nursing homes over $15 million during the COVID-19 emergency for not following infection control guidelines or reporting data about the virus, the agency said Friday.
After several COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes, federal officials allowed state inspectors to prioritize infection control problems during their investigations. CMS said inspectors surveyed more than 99% of nursing homes since early March, finding more than 180 violations caused or were likely to cause serious injury or death. The rate was three times higher in 2020 than in 2019. According to the agency, it fined nursing homes in 22 states almost $10 million.
"Now more than ever, nursing homes must be vigilant in adhering to federal guidelines related to infection control to prevent the spread of infectious disease, including COVID-19," CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. "We will continue to hold nursing homes accountable and work with state and local leaders to protect the vulnerable population residing in America's nursing homes."
CMS also fined nursing homes more than $5.5 million for not reporting COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency found more than 3,300 problems with over 99% of facilities reporting coronavirus cases, deaths and other information.
States are supposed to make sure that nursing homes meet federal Medicare and Medicaid standards and license nursing homes, according to the agency.
But "the responsibility for ensuring infection control processes and protocols are consistently implemented and maintained ultimately rests with the nursing homes," CMS said in a press release.
Nursing home residents consistently make up more than a third of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of CMS data, nearly 1 in 3 nursing homes report a staffing shortage, personal protective equipment shortage or both.