CMS/CDC Hold Open Call with Nursing Homes to Clarify Antigen Testing Final Rule

September 11, 2020
Policy Snapshot

On Tuesday, September 8, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Secretary Robert Redfield, MD, held a joint open call with nursing home representatives to discuss the COVID 19 Testing and Reporting Requirements Based Interim Final Rule with Comment Period released on August 25 that became effective and published in the Federal Register on September 2. The officials presented the new regulatory requirements, guidance on how nursing facilities can meet those requirements, and available resources and technical assistance.

To clarify some confusion, the presenters stated that the point of care rapid antigen tests should only be used on those who are asymptomatic if a more reliable PCR test does not have an adequate turnaround time of 48 hours or less. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does support point of care tests on those who are asymptomatic if there is no better alternative. Administrator Verma reiterated that the point of care machines have been sent to nearly all nursing homes but acknowledged a small number is still outstanding and will be sent shortly.

The Society and others have expressed concerns about the use of point of care rapid antigen tests for their high rate of false negatives/positives. This could lead to unintended consequences such as increased workforce shortages and negative outcomes due to repeated testing on older frail adults. CMS stated that it believes this type of testing/screening, as well as other infection control measures, will help prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities.

A copy of the presentation can be found here. Recordings of the calls will be made available here.