CMS Working to Release ‘Least Burdensome’ Plan for New Nursing Home COVID-19 Reporting Requirements

The federal government has not yet released the nuts-and-bolts details of its new COVID-19 reporting requirements for nursing homes, but an official on Wednesday indicated that the various agencies involved are trying to limit the pending rule’s impact on providers.

“I assure you we are working to find the most efficient way to collect this valuable standardized information in the least burdensome manner possible,” Jean Moody-Williams, acting director of the Center for Clinical Standards at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said during an afternoon call with various nursing home industry stakeholders.

CMS on Sunday night released a long-anticipated order to post-acute and long-term care operators that will eventually require them to report all positive COVID-19 cases directly to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

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CMS and the CDC will in turn create a public database of all cases at the nation’s more than 15,000 nursing homes, a move toward transparency that a variety of voices — from resident advocates to operators themselves — have classified as a vital tool for directing resources such as testing and protective gear to the buildings and regions that need it most.

But aside from issuing the order, CMS has not provided further guidance on when operators must start reporting that information and how often. Moody-Williams indicated that those details could be available this time next week.

The government agencies are working to develop a unified reporting platform using the CDC’s existing National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) platform, Moody-Williams said.

Provider organizations and individual operators have raised concerns about the additional paperwork that the federal mandate could bring to frontline staff during the ongoing coronavirus crisis; many states and local governments have their own COVID-19 public-information rules, which will remain in effect alongside the CMS and CDC order.

“At this point, the states will continue to have the ability for their reporting templates, and we’ll continue to look how we can work together,” Moody-Williams said. “This is consistent with many of our federal reporting requirements, as you’re aware. States are welcome to utilize the federal reports as well to meet their needs, but I know they have, probably, needs in addition to what we will be asking for.”

Under the updated guidance from CMS and CDC, operators are also required to comply with CDC surveillance efforts, which could include on-site visits to nursing homes.

“We also thank you and continue to expect your cooperation with the CDC as they come into facilities and conduct surveillance activities for suspected cases,” Moody-Williams said. “I think that’s been a great partnership that has really been a benefit across the country.”