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Coronavirus: Lawmakers ignore horrific number of nursing home deaths

Written by Diane Archer

David Dayen writes for The American Prospect on the horrific number of deaths at nursing homes during this novel coronavirus pandemic. At last count, more than 31,000 nursing home residents had died from COVID-19. What’s shocking is that lawmakers are turning a blind eye to the issue and protecting nursing home owners.

First, we have incomplete and inaccurate information about nursing home deaths. In fact, only four in five nursing homes have reported COVID-19 casualties to CMS. It’s unclear how many are misreporting their data.

At a minimum, one in four COVID-19 deaths are in nursing homes. To put that in context, nursing home residents represent fewer than one in 165 Americans. Dayen says that the number of nursing home deaths translate to between 12 and 18 deaths each hour.

This is criminal. Horrific. But, there is not the due uproar and focus on this scandal because it is largely hidden. We are not seeing the images to trigger the needed response. We only recently have seen data.

Meanwhile, states have imposed rules on nursing homes regarding testing of residents and staff to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. In some states, staff are expected to be tested twice a week. Some insurers are refusing to pay for these tests, which are related expressly to employment and not personal health. Nursing homes say they cannot afford to pay for them. Again, a guaranteed, universal health care system could easily address this issue.

On a separate note, lawmakers have given nursing home executives immunity from liability for failing to properly care for their residents. Nursing home regulations have been loosened. Fines for failing to abide by regulations have been lowered. Yet, many nursing homes have been cited for endangering their residents over the last decade, including improper care, abuse and theft of resources.

We have a terrible long-term care system in this country that is desperately in need of fixing. It’s long past time to start remedying this abhorrent situation.

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