In a letter sent today to Gov. Pete Ricketts, AARP Nebraska is pressing the state to publicly release the names of nursing homes and assisted living communities with confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents and staff. As of May 7, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 62 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Nebraska are related to long-term care facilities, the fourth highest rate in the nation.
“Transparency in reporting is critical for public health and the health and well-being of the residents and staff of these facilities. Residents and family members deserve to have this information for their own health decisions as they consider possible next steps and interventions for their loved ones,” said Todd Stubbendieck, state director of AARP Nebraska.
The full text of the letter from Stubbendieck to Gov. Ricketts is below:
May 11, 2020
Governor Pete Ricketts
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 94848
Lincoln, NE 68509-4848
Dear Governor Ricketts:
On behalf of our nearly 200,000 members and all older Nebraskans, AARP Nebraska appreciates the work the state has done to combat COVID-19 and we write to ask you to take additional action to protect Nebraska’s most vulnerable population, individuals living in nursing homes and assisted living communities.
We are following up on a letter we sent to you on April 24, 2020 calling for greater transparency of information on COVID-19 cases in the state’s nursing facilities. Specifically, we urged the state to release publicly the names of nursing homes and assisted living communities with confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents or staff.
At your daily press briefing on May 7, 2020, you announced a total of 455 residents or staff in Nebraska nursing facilities had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Furthermore, you stated that 57 of the 86 COVID-19 deaths that had occurred at that time in the entire state were related to these facilities. Nebraska is one of 13 states with at least 50% of deaths from nursing homes. That is a disturbingly high percentage and is clear evidence this disease is having a disproportionate impact on these vulnerable Nebraskans. Residents of nursing homes and assisted living communities are living in what is their home, they are not leaving or coming in contact with the general population, and they are not allowed to have visitors from the outside. Despite these protections, they are dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than anyone else.
Again, we are calling on the state to publicly release the names of nursing homes and assisted living communities with confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents and staff. This transparency is critical for public health and the health and well-being of the residents and staff of these facilities. Moreover, residents and family members deserve to have this information for their own health decisions as they consider possible next steps and interventions for their loved ones. To be clear, we are not advocating for the disclosure of any private patient information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rightfully protects the privacy of the individual. It does not, however, preclude a state health agency from releasing the names of facilities, because those facilities are not a covered entity as defined by the law.
Many states are already disclosing this critical information, going so far as posting it daily on their health department’s website. Nursing facilities are ground zero in the fight against the coronavirus and more information and greater transparency is a key tool in this fight.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent challenge. Families are looking for swift action to protect the health and safety of their loved ones living in nursing homes and assisted living communities. AARP stands ready to help in any way that we can. If you have any questions, please contact me at 402-323-5421 or email@example.com.
State Director, AARP Nebraska