Verma: COVID-19 Data Will Appear on Nursing Home Compare, First Public Report by End of May

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Seema Verma on Thursday confirmed that newly required COVID-19 data will eventually appear on Nursing Home Compare, with the first public information expected to be released by the end of this month.

“Ultimately, it will go on Nursing Home Compare, so that people can look up the specific nursing home and have the report on what happened,” Verma said on a Thursday morning call with reporters.

In addition to building-by-building information on the consumer-facing website, the COVID-19 data will also be presented in a separate trend analysis from CMS, the administrator indicated.

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“Obviously, we want to make sure it’s scrubbed and it’s cleaned,” Verma said. “We have to get the data from CDC. We want to do our own analysis, as well, to sort of put out some broad parameters of what we’re seeing, so that that’s easy and digestible.”

CMS issued an interim final rule at the start of May, requiring operators to submit weekly information about COVID-19 infections and deaths to the agency and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). The goal, according to CMS and the CDC, is to help officials track coronavirus hotspots while also providing full transparency to the public.

The first round of information is due this coming Sunday, though fines for non-compliance do not kick in until June 7.

Evan Shulman, director of CMS’s nursing home division, on Wednesday indicated that while thousands of facilities had reported data, thousands more still needed to sign up for an account with CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) portal and begin sending in information.

A lack of specific public data around coronavirus infections and deaths in nursing homes has been a major source of frustration for lawmakers, resident advocates, and families. Earlier this week, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania grilled CDC director Robert Redfield about the delay in federal reporting, which Redfield described as an “operational” issue.

“I need to hear from you today: Why has there been a delay — a three-month delay — in basic information that families and people within a community need about the outbreaks in nursing homes, the number of cases, what is happening in nursing homes?” Casey said during a Senate hearing on the nation’s coronavirus response. “Tell us when we’re going to see that information.”

Verma insisted that nursing homes were always required to provide information about disease and deaths to local health departments, and praised the industry’s work to keep residents and families informed.

“I want to be very clear with you that families have that information today, and they’ve had it for weeks,” Verma said. “We’ve heard from family members across the country that have said: ‘It’s great. I’m getting these phone calls. My mom’s okay, but I know that there’s coronavirus in the nursing home.'”