Trump to Speak About “Protecting America’s Seniors” After Gutting Protections for Nursing Home Residents

WASHINGTON, D.C. This afternoon, President Trump is scheduled to speak on “protecting America’s seniors.” His remarks will follow dangerous moves by the Trump administration to roll back regulations supporting nursing home residents, including weakening requirements for facilities to have infection specialists on staff and undermining people’s abilities to sue facilities with claims of elder abuse, sexual harassment, or wrongful death on behalf of a family member.

“Trump can talk all he wants about helping seniors — his rhetoric will ring hollow to seniors and their loved ones who have felt the sting of his administration’s efforts to roll back regulations protecting them,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “The administration turned its back on seniors even before the COVID-19 crisis. And with older Americans at heightened risk of health issues from the coronavirus, it’s shameful that Trump wants to use the pandemic as an opportunity to try to whitewash his administration’s moves that left vulnerable seniors to fend for themselves.”

Trump’s remarks will also come after callous suggestions from his allies encouraging older Americans to risk their lives in order to reopen the nation’s economy before experts have deemed it safe, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who said, “And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country,” and Glenn Beck, who said, “I would rather have my children stay home and have all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working. Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country.” Even Fox News anchor Brit Hume called the idea of older Americans returning to normalcy in the middle of a raging global pandemic “an entirely reasonable viewpoint.”


July 2020: CMS Started Pushing a Rule to Weaken Rules Requiring Nursing Homes Have a Part-Time Infection Specialist on Staff. “Last July, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or C.M.S., set in motion a plan to weaken rules imposed by the Obama administration that required every nursing home to employ at least one specialist in preventing infections. The proposed rules — which the agency is completing and has the power to enact — eliminate the requirement to have even a part-time infection specialist on staff. Instead, the Trump administration would require that anti-infection specialists spend ‘sufficient time at the facility.’ […] Each year, about 380,000 residents are killed by infections, according to the Medicare agency. Failure to prevent them is also the leading cause of citations that state inspectors bring against nursing homes.” [New York Times, 3/14/20]

  • Rule Said Consultants Could Replace In-House Staff for Infection Control. “It suggested that consultants could be used, instead of requiring infection specialists to be employed at the site, at minimum, on a part-time basis. This meant that there was no longer a requirement for a full-time, hands-on expert in infection contamination on-site. This lack of additional oversight—combined with the prior regulatory rollbacks on staffing ratios, fines levied for injuries, and requirements for arbitration—served to undermine safety for nursing home patients and staff.” [Center for American Progress, 4/21/20]
  • The Rule Would Have Required the Specialist to Oversee “Ensuring that Nursing Home Staff Properly Clean Their Hands, Disinfect Surfaces.” “The 2016 provision also requires that infection preventionists receive specialized training and that all long-term care facilities employ a specialist at least part time. The specialists are responsible for ensuring that nursing home staff properly clean their hands, disinfect surfaces and follow other protocols, helping to prevent both residents and health care providers from becoming infected. The provision took effect in November despite the Trump administration’s objections, but the administration has continued working to reverse it.” [NBC News, 3/03/20]

2017: Trump Administration Changed Guidance So that Nursing Homes Fines Were Lessened by 30% on Average. “In its first year, the Trump administration changed how nursing homes were fined when they violated rules. Previously, they were typically penalized for every day in which a violation persisted. But the agency changed the guidance for inspectors, encouraging them to hand out a single fine — rather than a series of daily penalties — for most infractions. Under the Trump administration, the average fine imposed on a nursing home has dropped more than 30 percent from $41,260 to $28,405, according to an analysis of federal data by Kaiser Health News.” [New York Times, 3/14/20]

Trump Administration Weakened Families’ Ability to Sue Nursing Homes over Claims of Wrongful Death, Elder Abuse, and Sexual Harassment. “The agency also weakened a rule that would have made it easier for nursing home residents and their families to sue over claims of elder abuse, sexual harassment and wrongful death.” [New York Times, 3/14/20]

  Trump Administration Also Proposed Lessening the Frequency that Nursing Homes Make Valuable in-House Assessments. “In addition to no longer requiring nursing homes to designate at least one part-time ‘infection preventionist,’ the Trump administration also has proposed adjusting a requirement that facilities must assess what they might need for patient care, from staffing levels to medical equipment. Under the proposal, facilities would have to do such assessments every two years instead of every year.” [New York Times, 3/14/20]

Rules and Regulations Changes Followed Lobbying from Highly Paid Trump-Connected Nursing Home Trade Group Lobbyist that Whose Firm Met with the Administration.  “The administration’s moves came after intense lobbying by the nursing home industry, including by the firm run by Brian Ballard, Mr. Trump’s friend and a fund-raiser. Parlaying his personal connections to Mr. Trump, Mr. Ballard has become one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, with the most clients of any registered lobbyist last year, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. His firm has lobbied on behalf of nursing homes in his home state, Florida, for years, according to public records. (He was also a lobbyist for Mr. Trump’s Florida golf course, the Doral.)” [New York Times, 3/14/20]


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