A new government report is calling on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to “quickly” develop a course of action on how it plans to respond and implement recommendations made by a federal nursing home commission. 

The recommendation was included in a new report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office that detailed “urgent actions needed” by the federal government to ensure an effective COVID-19 response. 

The Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes issued an 186-page report in mid-September. It included a total of 27 recommendations, with 10 themes and more than 100 action steps to aid providers and public health officials in their pandemic response for nursing homes.

The GAO report noted that while CMS released a response to the commission that broadly outlined the actions it has taken to date, “it has not fully addressed the commission’s recommendations or provided an implementation plan to track and report progress toward implementing them.”  

“While CMS is not obligated to implement all of the commission’s recommendations, the agency has not indicated any areas where it does not plan to take action,” the GAO stated. 

Many of the commission’s suggestions centered around testing, personal protective equipment, cohorting, visitation and workforce. Some specific recommendations called on the federal government to immediately develop and execute a national strategy for testing and delivering rapid turnaround results in nursing homes; update cohorting guidance and reimbursement policy to address the differences in nursing home resources; and mobilize resources to support fatigued nursing home workforce and assess minimum care standards. 

At the time of its release, leading nursing home stakeholders said they hoped the federal government would use the report to develop a more coordinated response and deliver more resources to nursing homes. Vice President Mike Pence said the report led to updated visitation guidance issued for nursing homes in mid-September.