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January 11, 2022

In this Issue:

  1. CMS Updates FAQs on Nursing Home Visitation Guidance
  2. Tell Us About Your Experience Visiting a Loved One in a Nursing Home
  3. CMS to Begin Posting Additional Nursing Home Staffing Information on Care Compare Website
  4. Biden-Harris Administration Requires Private Health Insurance and Group Health Plans to Cover At-Home COVID-19 Tests
  5. Reminder: Tell Us About Your Experience Visiting a Loved One in a Nursing Home

CMS Updates FAQs on Nursing Home Visitation Guidance

On January 6, 2022, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) updated the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) released on December 23rd, 2021, which clarify their updated Nursing Home Visitation Guidance from November.

The updated FAQs continue to emphasize that visitation must be permitted at all times and state that visitation is critical for residents, acknowledging that past limits on visitation led to physical and psychosocial decline.

Key updates include:

  • While visitation should still occur, states may instruct facilities to take additional measures to make visitations safer, including wearing well-fitting masks, such as surgical or KN95s.  States should work directly with CMS on measures they are considering.
  • When outbreaks occur, facilities should continue consulting with state and local health departments to determine when modifications to visitation policies are appropriate.  All discussions with the health department should be documented as should all measures facilities have taken to attempt to control the spread of COVID-19.
  • Facilities should continue permitting visitation as cases spike due to the Omicron variant.   

The guidance states that visitation must still be permitted despite rising cases and emphasizes residents’ federal right to make choices about their lives in a facility and their right to visitation (42 CFR 483.10(f)(2) and (4)).

Vaccination is strongly encouraged though not required and extra precautions for reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission are suggested. Consumer Voice strongly encourages all family members to follow all infection prevention protocols that facilities require while visiting, including: proper masking, hand washing, social distancing, and rescheduling visits if you have symptoms of, or test positive for, COVID-19.  Additionally, we strongly advise all visitors to get vaccinated before visiting and to test if possible before entering a facility.

CMS to Begin Posting Additional Nursing Home Staffing Information on Care Compare Website

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin to post additional nursing home staffing information on the Nursing Home Care Compare website.

  • Weekend Staffing: The level of total nurse and registered nurse (RN) staffing on weekends provided by each nursing home over a quarter.
  • Staff Turnover: The percent of nursing staff and number of administrators that stopped working at the nursing home over a 12-month period.
This information will be added to the Care Compare website in January 2022 and used in the Nursing Home Five Star Quality Rating System in July 2022.

Read the memo from CMS.

Biden-Harris Administration Requires Private Health Insurance and Group Health Plans to Cover At-Home COVID-19 Tests

The Biden-Harris Administration is requiring insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests.  The tests will be free to individuals with private health coverage beginning January 15th.  The new coverage requirement means that most consumers with private health coverage can go online or to a pharmacy or store, buy a test, and either get it paid for up front by their health plan, or get reimbursed for the cost by submitting a claim to their plan. Insurance companies and health plans are required to cover 8 free over-the-counter at-home tests per covered individual per month.

Read the press release.

Reminder: 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.

Thank you to all those who have already completed this survey!

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