With one of its top officials set to testify before the Senate today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services made a pre-emptive strike to show that it’s addressing nursing home safety concerns.

Its leader also criticized the rule stipulating a three-day hospital stay to qualify for nursing home coverage.

In a sharply worded blog posted Tuesday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma noted some of the “alarming stories” of abuse that continue to be reported about vulnerable individuals in long-term care and other settings.

“There is absolutely no room in America’s healthcare system for any situation that violates quality or safety standards. That’s why CMS is issuing new guidance that takes a key step towards making across-the-board improvements in healthcare safety and quality,” she wrote.

CMS is issuing revised guidance and new tools to address violations of healthcare regulations that can cause serious harm or death to a patient, called “Immediate Jeopardy” in survey language.

The new CMS guidance arrives as its chief medical officer, Kate Goodrich, M.D., prepares to testify before the Senate Committee on Finance about abuse that’s occurred at nursing homes. Others lending their voice to the hearing will include two daughters of elderly individuals who were allegedly neglected during recent nursing home stays.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-GA), the Senate Finance Committee chairman who called today’s hearing, took CMS to task in a Tuesday announcement, noting that even though one Iowa nursing home scored high marks from the agency, it still provided substandard care leading to the death of 87-year-old Virginia Olthoff last year.

“How a place with the highest possible rating could yield such a tragic incident is just outrageous,” Grassley said in the announcement. “Things need to change, both for the standards at care facilities and for how CMS rates them. When American families consider where their loved ones can get the care they need, they should be able to rely on CMS information. That’s clearly not the case right now.”

David Gifford, M.D., the American Health Care Association’s senior VP of quality and regulatory affairs, will also appear before the Finance Committee Wednesday. In an announcement ahead of the hearing, the AHCA said Gifford planned to highlight the fact that “recent anecdotal stories do not reflect the larger trends of overall improvement in care provided by nursing homes across the country.” He’ll also recommend changes that could help prevent future abuse and neglect, according to the announcement.


At a Federation of American Hospital’s policy conference earlier in the week, Verma also railed against the rule dictating a three-day hospital stay to qualify for nursing home coverage. She slammed the notion of government-run healthcare, dictated by “bureaucrats,” and said the three-day rule unnecessarily inflates costs.

“These are just some of the examples of the inherent inefficiency with a system that needs an act of Congress in order to make changes,” Verma told attendees. “It is true that our present system needs improvement. However, doubling down on government and mimicking the failed socialist healthcare systems of Europe — that ration and restrict care, where patients face long periods of time for care — is not the answer.