While short on specifics, President Biden’s top spokesperson last week indicated a desire to move forward on nursing home reform efforts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s no question from the president’s standpoint [about] the impact on seniors that we’ve seen happen in facilities around the country, especially in the early days of the pandemic — when there clearly weren’t the preparations in place, when there weren’t the systems in place, when loved ones couldn’t even engage with or reach their members who were staying in senior care facilities,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, according to a report from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It exposed what a problem we have on our hands.”
The publication used a slot reserved for local papers to participate in Biden administration press briefings to ask Psaki about the administration’s plans for bolstering care in nursing homes and requiring more transparency from operators in the space.
In particular, the outlet focused on federal bills aimed at reforms — such as a bipartisan effort to expand the Special Focus Facility (SFF) list of troubled nursing homes sponsored by Pennsylvania senators Pat Toomey, a Republican, and his Democratic counterpart Bob Casey.
Psaki indicated that the administration was open to analyzing those reform pitches more closely, but emphasized that change has to come from both Washington and individual state governments.
“It’s not just one or the other,” Psaki said, per the Tribune report. “There are responsibilities that the state has because there is certain funding that goes to the states to deploy in a lot of these areas, but there’s also responsibilities of the federal government to work across different states and see these challenges that are happening, [and] what we can do to be better prepared, what we can do better for our seniors, what we can do better for the standard of care. … It’s really a partnership of both moving forward.”
The Biden administration’s moves around long-term care have thus far centered on a $400 billion plan to expand Medicaid coverage of home- and community-based services, with the stated goal of eliminating the widespread payment bias toward institutional care and
“President Biden believes more people should have the opportunity to receive care at home, in a supportive community, or from a loved one,” the White House observed in a fact sheet announcing the proposal, which he included as part of a wider $2 trillion infrastructure package.
As candidates, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris proposed a host of stricter rules and audits for nursing home operators, asserting that the impact of COVID-19 on the setting “did not have to be this bad.”
“As they work to protect those living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, a Biden-Harris administration will also work to end the institutional bias in the Medicaid program by expanding access to home and community based services, affirm the commitment to people with disabilities and seniors to be able to self-direct services, work with Congress to secure permanent reauthorization of and invest in the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program, and fully implement the HCBS Final Rule,” the campaign noted last fall.