Senior living operators may not be receiving the personal protective equipment that nursing homes have been promised by the federal government to fight COVID-19, but now they may be receiving a level of federal scrutiny similar to nursing homes.
The CEOs of 11 of some of the country’s largest senior living companies have until Friday to respond to a letter from three members of Congress asking them to detail the extent of COVID-19 at their communities and the actions they are taking to prevent or mitigate the disease.
“Assisted living facilities deserve particular scrutiny in this pandemic because they share several of the same characteristics that increase risks at nursing homes — a population of senior citizens, many with chronic health problems, living and interacting closely together — but they face a significantly less stringent regulatory environment,” wrote Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and Senate Aging Committees; Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in a letter dated April 29 and released publicly on Friday. The characteristics delineated by the members of Congress echo some of the ones listed by associations representing the sector when arguing why senior living operators in addition to skilled nursing providers should be prioritized for PPE.
The letter was sent to the CEOs of Affinity Living Group, Atria Senior Living, Brookdale Senior Living, Capital Senior Living, Enlivant, Eclipse Senior Living, Five Star Senior Living, Gardant Management Solutions, LifeCare Services, Senior Lifestyle Corp. and Sunrise Senior Living. The 18 questions in the letter ask the leaders to share the total number of communities, residents and staff members at each company as well as the number and severity of COVID-19 cases among residents and staff members and the communities in which any cases have occurred; details related to testing and the reporting of results; sick leave, family leave, medical leave and hazard pay offered to employees; visitation policies; and the use of PPE.
Warren was one of four senators who had requested that the Government Accountability Office study state reporting of deficiencies in care and services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries in assisted living communities, an effort that resulted in a January 2018 report, which the new letter referenced.
The members of Congress said they are requesting the information because “there was not and is not a national reporting requirement for assisted living facilities with COVID-19 cases: there is only non-binding guidance from [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] on preventing and mitigating outbreaks in assisted living facilities. As a result, there is little comprehensive national information available on the extent of COVID19 outbreaks in assisted living facilities and the actions taken by assisted living facilities and their operators to address these risks.”