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May 19, 2020Advocacy Matters

COVID-19 and Nursing Homes – Action Alert

Disability Matters with Joyce Bender

May 19, 2020

#AdvocacyMatters Segment

COVID-19 and Nursing Homes – Action Alert


Nursing homes continue to be a focal point of advocacy from our community and for good reason.

In Pennsylvania, and possibly in many states across the country, over half of the COVID-19 deaths have occurred in congregate settings like nursing and personal care homes.  The National Guard is now staffing 4 homes in our state.  While we are told that personal protective equipment is available, we hear antidotal stories of nursing home staff reusing the same PPE over many days and moving room to room with the same PPE, whether the residents have tested positive or negative for the virus.

We know #AdvocacyMatters.  We have 2 advocacy action steps for this week.

Monitor a hearing in the U.S. Senate and submit public comment on the proposed rule at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare services that would make it harder for people with disabilities to transition from nursing homes to community living.

The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging is holding a hearing this Thursday, May 21, 2020, at 9:30 am eastern time.  The name of the hearing is “Caring for Seniors Amid the COVID-19 Crisis.”  The hearing will be broadcast live on the committee’s website at

We have a list of members of that committee on our website included with today’s segment at  You can contact your members on the committee and tell them what is happening in your state with congregate care settings.


Committee Members (


Republic Majority

Chair, Susan M. Collins (R-Maine)
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)
Senator Martha McSally (R-Arizona)
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana)
Senator Rick Scott (R-FL)


Democratic Minority

Ranking Member, Bob Casey (D-PA)
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Senator Doug Jones (D-AL)
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona)
Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV)


Finally, CMS has proposed a rule change for Medicaid-funded nursing facilities.  CMS wants to rescind the use of a Preadmission Screening and Resident Review tool.  This screening tool helps nursing homes and states comply with the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision.  The proposed rule encourages states to bypass the screening tool that evaluates community options prior to admission to a nursing facility.  Without the tool, there is a risk of longer-term institutionalization and needless exposure to COVID-19.

The deadline for public comment is tomorrow, May 20, 2020, at midnight.  There is a portal for public comment on our website and links to further information about the proposed rule change.


Click here for Portal and General Information


Template for Individual Comments from the Center for Public Representation

Comments to be used on the portal.

May 19, 2020


Seema Verma
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Department of Health and Human Services
Attention: CMS-2418-P
B.O. Box 8016
Baltimore, MD 21244-8016


Re:    Comments on Proposed Rule: Preadmission Screening and Resident Review



Dear Administrator Verma,

I’m writing to comment on CMS’ proposed changes to Preadmission Screening and Resident Review (PASRR). PASRR is an important tool to keep people with disabilities from being unnecessarily placed in nursing facilities and help them transition back to the community. Having strong PASRR rules is especially important now, with the rampant outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 happening in nursing facilities around the country.

[As a person with a disability/family member of a person with a disability], I oppose the proposed changes to the PASRR rule that would make it easier for people to be admitted to nursing facilities and harder for people in nursing facilities to return to the community. First, the proposed rule would allow states to avoid screening and evaluation for many people before admitting them to a nursing facility, leading to the admission of people who could instead be served in the community. The rule also would limit the services that nursing facilities must provide once someone is admitted. Without all the services they need, people will lose skills and not learn new skills that would make it easier for them to transition back to their communities. Finally, the rule would allow states to stop working on the transition of a person back to the community if the person does not have a community option currently available, even if everyone agrees the person could be best served in the community. The rule should instead require the person’s case manager to continue to work to identify community options.

All these changes will mean more people will be admitted to or remain stuck in nursing facilities who don’t need to be. This not only violates the right of people with disabilities to community services, but is especially dangerous during this COVID-19 pandemic. [If you or your family member have any additional thoughts about people with disabilities being stuck in nursing homes or how they could be better served in the community, add them here]

I ask you to please substantially revise the proposed rule to remove any changes that would make it easier for people with disabilities to be admitted to or to remain in nursing homes unnecessarily. I would also like an opportunity to comment on the new rule once revised. The health and safety of people with disabilities around the country depends on it.

Thank you,



Please stay engaged and help advocate for others during COVID-19.