COVID-19 has taken a toll on communities around the world, with some communities and facilities at a much higher risk of spread. Nursing homes in particular are at a high outbreak risk. A risk which has become even more substantial due to regulation cuts by the Trump administration.
One nursing home in particular is a clear example of the toll COVID-19 has taken on the most vulnerable. The Life Care Center of Kirkland in Seattle Washington became one of the initial outbreaks as COVID-19 hit the United States. In its facilities alone, 129 residents, staff and visitors were affected, with 23 deaths reported.
This one example isn’t unique, as nursing homes across the country have experienced the extreme toll COVID-19 has taken on their communities. The estimated toll is staggering. Gregg Girvan and Avik Roy found that as of June 29, 50,779 of the 113,135 US deaths from Covid-19 were deaths at these facilities.
Changing federal nursing home and long-term care facility policies under the Trump administration worsened conditions prior to the pandemic, leaving residents and staff in the facilities at a much greater risk during this unprecedented health crisis. Under the Trump administration, the following changes that affect nursing homes have occurred:
- Fines to nursing homes found violating health regulations, specifically those in place to combat the spread of infectious disease, have been reduced. The average fine of $41,260 has fallen to $28,405.
- Immediate jeopardy fines, put in place to regulate serious conditions or situations that put patients at risk of serious injury, or death, are now left to the discretion of individual regulators instead of an automatically issued fine.
- Per-day fining, holding nursing homes accountable for each day they were in violation of a Medicare or Medicaid regulation, have been shifted to per-instance fining. A move criticized by patient advocates.
- Infection Prevention Specialists are no longer required staff at all nursing facilities
- Cuts to Medicaid’s budget, which is in part a funding source of the regulating body of nursing homes, are being proposed.
The proposed changes outlined above, and the lack of effective PPE, testing and staffing have caused a disastrous outcome during the COVID-19 pandemic. David Grabowski, an economist at Harvard Medical School who specializes in long-term care shared, “CMS [The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] should be doing two things. First, they should be providing facilities with testing and personal protective equipment. Second, they should be looking to provide education and guidance to facilities on best infection-control practices.” These initiatives are both lacking under the Trump administration.
To learn more about how the Trump administration’s deregulation of nursing homes has negatively impacted the most vulnerable during COVID-19, head to VOX here.