The leader of the nation’s largest nursing home association is urging operators to battle “ridiculous” efforts to increase fines and other parts of the administration’s recently announced reform package.

President Biden’s comments about nursing homes in his first State of the Union Address may have been relatively mild, but language released a day earlier about his proposed reform plans was “offensive,” said American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson.

“While it is true that tens of thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living buildings have died over the last two years, study after study has demonstrated that it’s not our fault,” Parkinson said in a video message distributed Friday. Community spread of COVID, and officials’ lack of action to limit it, is the cause of much of the nursing home harm, he noted. 

He said that both Republicans and Democrats have made mistakes the past few years and are now wrongly starting to “point fingers” at providers.

“As we sit here today, we’re in the best clinical situation we’ve been in in a long time,” Parkinson said. “Case counts among staff and among residents remain really low, hospitalizations and deaths, fortunately, are very low.”

“Unfortunately, on the business side, things have never been tougher,” he continued, blaming the “double-whammy” of low census and sky-high labor costs. 

“Really horrible public policy ideas” are compounding problems, he added. He recounted federal officials denying operators personal protective equipment and testing near the start of the pandemic, and some governors routing COVID-positive individuals into long-term care facilities that were not yet equipped to accept them.

“Obviously, the answer is that we fight on,” Parkinson said. He called on members to make their presence and opinions known to state and federal lawmakers. Specifically, he urged operators to attend the association’s annual lobbying rally June 6-7 — “the most important Congressional Briefing in nursing home history.” The goal is to tell lawmakers, “It’s not our fault, that we are committed to quality, that more fines and regulations won’t do anything but make matters worse.”

Parkinson also encouraged providers to submit “massive” comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to persuade the agency to reverse some of the reform provisions. He said recent past precedent should encourage efforts in this vein.

First, he cited some 13,000 comments providers submitted regarding the Obama administration’s original version of the recent Requirements of Participation overhaul. That outpouring led to numerous significant delays and revisions.

More recently, Parkinson noted, a major outcry by nursing home stakeholders in the fall led the White House to expand its COVID-19 vaccination mandate from just nursing home employees to other healthcare workers as well.