Contact: Lisa Sanders

lsanders@leadingage.org 202-508-9407

May 18, 2020 Washington DC -- In reaction to guidance for state and local officials on the reopening of nursing homes, released today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, the association of nonprofit providers of aging services, including nursing homes, released the following statement:

“Today’s CMS statement raises many questions, but doesn’t answer the most important one: When will vulnerable older Americans and their caregivers get the support needed to protect them from the most dangerous pandemic in a century?

Like the Administration, we too want to have a plan to safely reopen nursing homes, and we agree that testing is essential. The reality is that too many nursing homes and other aging services providers are still desperately in need of testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), and we don’t know when or if it’s coming. We need these tools to make reopening possible.

The guidance from CMS is not grounded in these everyday realities of our members. We need a plan for testing. We need access to adequate testing supplies and PPE. And we need funding to make both of those possible for the brave people who care for vulnerable older adults day in and day out. Our members pay between $200,000 and $250,000 per week to test staff just twice a week. That’s $1 million dollars a month. Nursing homes need help from federal or state governments to cover these necessary costs. Today’s guidance delivers none of that.

How is it possible that four months have passed since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis and real help is still not on the way?

Our communities are tired of news conferences, photo ops, and guidance that comes without tangible resources and hands-on help. Nursing homes and other aging services providers know how to fight the virus, but they need real help, not symbols.

Older lives are not expendable. Any plan that leaves nursing homes, assisted living communities, and other aging services providers without immediate and consistent access to life-saving tests and PPE is a deadly failure.

To protect vulnerable older Americans, any strategy must contain five essential actions:

  1. States should not reopen without first ensuring older Americans are safe and protected. Our most vulnerable can’t be forced to compete with nail salons and gyms for life-protecting supplies on the open market.
  2. All care providers who serve older Americans need immediate access to ample PPE. Policymakers must prioritize aging services providers on the same priority tier as hospitals.
  3. Third, older adults and their care providers must have on-demand access to rapid-results testing, also on the same priority tier as hospitals. Results are needed in minutes, not days or weeks.
  4. We must provide recognition for the heroic frontline workers who are risking and sometimes losing their lives serving older Americans – just as we’ve recognized hospital workers and others who have kept America running.
  5. Saving the lives of older adults means that these promises must be kept with real funding and support.Congress must allocate $100 billion to cover COVID-19 needs--and provide critical support for aging services like hazard pay for frontline workers, increased loans, Medicaid funding, and federal housing assistance, and access to telehealth.”

###

LINK TO CMS QSO-20-30-NH Memo; https://www.cms.gov/files/document/nursing-home-reopening-recommendations-state-and-local-officials.pdf

LINK TO CMS FAQ: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/covid-nursing-home-reopening-recommendation-faqs.pdf

LINK TO CMS press release: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/trump-administration-issues-guidance-ensure-states-have-plan-place-safely-reopen-nursing-homes

About LeadingAge

We represent more than 5,000 aging-focused organizations that touch millions of lives every day. Alongside our members and 38 state partners, we address critical issues by blending applied research, advocacy, education, and community-building. We bring together the most inventive minds in our field to support older adults as they age wherever they call home. We make America a better place to grow old. For more information: www.leadingage.org