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January 4, 2022

In this Issue:

  1. National Advocates Send Letter to CMS to Preserve Residents' Rights to Visitation
  2. Tell Us About Your Experience Visiting a Loved One in a Nursing Home
  3. CMS Publishes Nursing Home Visitation Frequently Asked Questions
  4. CMS Publishes Guidance to Ensure Compliance with Staff Vaccination Requirements
  5. Senators Send Letter to HHS Secretary Regarding Protecting Nursing Home Residents and Staff Against COVID-19
  6. HHS Town Hall on Importance of COVID-19 Boosters in Protecting Nursing Home Residents

National Advocates Send Letter to CMS to Preserve Residents' Right to Visitation

Consumer Voice, with other advocates, sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure regarding removing restrictions on visitation in nursing homes.   This action reunited hundreds of thousands of nursing home residents with their loved ones.  The letter to CMS expresses concern regarding the recent request by some that CMS grant facilities discretion to limit visitation in nursing homes.  The negative impact on residents, however, due to isolation and neglect that resulted from visitation restrictions and lack of adequate staff has been tremendous. Residents must continue to have access to family members and other support persons, and facilities must ensure that proper infection prevention protocols are being followed by staff and visitors.  We strongly urge CMS to continue to stand strong with residents and preserve their critical right to visitation.

Read the letter to CMS.

Tell Us About Your Experience Visiting a Loved One in a Nursing Home

On November 12, 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued new guidance lifting all restrictions on visitation in nursing homes.  After a year and a half of separation, residents and their loved ones are now able to visit inside facilities without restrictions on the length and frequency of visits.  Read Consumer Voice's summary of the new guidance and advocacy tips to help you visit with your loved one.

We want to hear from you about your experience with visitation since the new guidance was issued on November 12, 2021.  Please respond to the brief survey.

If you have responded to one of our visitation surveys previously, thank you! Please fill out this survey again to update us on your experiences.

CMS Publishes Nursing Home Visitation Frequently Asked Questions

On December 23rd, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provided clarification on recent guidance by publishing Nursing Home Visitation Frequently Asked Questions.  The FAQs address questions like whether residents can have close contact with their visitors, if they can visit without wearing masks, if visitors can share meals with residents, and more.

Administration for Community Living National Ombudsman Program Coordinator Beverley Laubert published a blog "Protecting Nursing Home Residents' Right to Safe Visitations This Holiday Season."

CMS Publishes Guidance to Ensure Compliance with Staff Vaccination Requirements

On December 28, 2021 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance and survey procedures to ensure compliance with nursing home staff vaccination requirements.

(At this time the guidance does not apply to: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.)

The CMS staff vaccination rule, “Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination,” requires providers’ staff to receive their COVID-19 vaccination doses within the appropriate timeframe unless exempted, as required by law, or delayed as recommended by the CDC.  Staff vaccination rates below 100% constitute non-compliance.  Noncompliance includes civil monetary penalties, denial of payments, and finally, termination of participation from the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  However, facilities will be given opportunities to return to compliance.  Enforcement action thresholds at 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days are outlined in the new guidance.

Find a supplement to the guidance that specifically applies to Long-Term Care and Skilled Nursing Facilities here.

Senators Send Letter to HHS Secretary Regarding Protecting Nursing Home Residents and Staff Against COVID-19

U.S. Senate Aging Committee Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA), U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra seeking information on the agency’s steps to prevent the spread of disease among residents and workers in nursing homes. Recent reporting citing federal data published in response to requests from Senators Casey and Wyden highlights concerns about the administration of booster shots and second primary doses to nursing home residents and workers.

"We are concerned that just 55 percent of fully vaccinated nursing home residents nationally have received additional primary or booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of December 12, 2021,” the Senators wrote. “Worker uptake of additional primary and booster vaccine doses is even lower at 23 percent nationally… Racial disparities in vaccination rates also must continue to be addressed. Research has shown that people of color are more likely to live in nursing homes with low vaccination rates, while Black and Hispanic people in the general population make up a disproportionately small share of booster dose recipients.”

Read the letter.

HHS Town Hall on Importance of COVID-19 Boosters in Protecting Nursing Home Residents

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) held a virtual town hall on December 30th featuring HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra with nursing home staff and administrators on the importance of COVID-19 boosters.  The town hall emphasized the importance of vaccinations and boosters in order to increase protections of nursing home residents and discussed the latest news on the Omicron variant and impact of boosters for residents and staff.  The town hall was co-sponored by Leading Age and the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Watch the recording of the town hall.

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