PHOENIX — Federal health officials say they will soon be releasing data to the public about COVID-19 at nursing homes, a markedly different stance than Arizona officials, who have claimed that releasing such information is a violation of health privacy laws.
Nursing homes already report any critical health data to state and local health agencies, but according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma, "we are no longer waiting on states" to release the information publicly.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Verma said more than 15,000 nursing homes around the country will report the COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control, then the information will be posted by the CMS for the public to access.
For the first time, nursing homes will be reporting this data directly to the @CDCgov, which is providing a reporting tool to > 15,000 nursing homes around the country. As nursing homes report this data to the CDC, @CMSGov will be taking this information & posting it publicly.— Administrator Seema Verma (@SeemaCMS) May 7, 2020
"This national collection will provide a common platform for all Americans to have access to public information on COVID-19 in nursing homes," she went on to say.
CMS also outlined the increase in reporting requirements in a memo sent to all states.
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been some of the hardest hit places across the country during the pandemic, including several locations in Arizona that have seen outbreaks with dozens of cases among residents.
Despite numerous requests, the Arizona Department of Health Services has repeatedly refused to release the names and locations of long-term care facilities dealing with cases of the virus.
While Gov. Doug Ducey and ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ have maintained that the data is protected health information that can’t be released according to state and federal law, experts have told ABC15 that is not the case.
A collection of news organizations, including ABC15 Arizona, is currently suing the state health department in order to reveal Arizona long-term care facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks.
The Department of Health Services has a failed history of inspecting and investigating long-term facilities and ignored thousands of complaints in recent years, according to a 2019 state audit.