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Jul 28, 2021
Key Federal Agency to Restore Tougher Penalties for Nursing Home Violations

WASHINGTON – Six months after a lawsuit filed by AARP Foundation and the law firm of Constantine Cannon LLP, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reversed course and announced plans to impose much stiffer penalties for nursing facility violations, AARP Foundation said today.

The lawsuit alleges that reduced fines put nursing facility residents’ lives at risk by weakening enforcement of the federal Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA). The suit, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, focuses on a 2017 CMS directive that restricts monetary penalties for nursing facilities to a one-time-only maximum fine of $22,320 for certain violations, rather than allowing fines of up to that amount for each day of noncompliance.  

“AARP Foundation is heartened by CMS’s decision to return to the tougher standard in effect before 2017,” said William Alvarado Rivera, Senior Vice President of Litigation at AARP Foundation. “The recent policy eliminated much of the incentive for nursing facilities to identify and correct serious problems quickly, and often exposed nursing facility residents to dangerous conditions.”

More than 184,000 residents and staff of long-term care facilities died from COVID-19 and well over one million confirmed cases have be reported in nursing facilities.

“By returning to meaningful penalties for noncompliance, CMS is incentivizing nursing facilities to correct problems before they lead to a similar disaster,” said Henry Su, co-counsel from the firm of Constantine Cannon.

Last week, CMS announced on its website that it was dropping its 2017 “guidance” to its state and regional offices to assess penalties for past noncompliance on a one-time-only basis. The one-time-only penalty has allowed facilities to get away with a slap on the wrist for maintaining even dangerous conditions.

The AARP Foundation lawsuit was filed against CMS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. The lawsuit described the July 7, 2017 CMS memorandum as creating “an irregular and unlawful policy change.”


About AARP Foundation

AARP Foundation works to end senior poverty by helping vulnerable people over 50 build economic opportunity. Our approach emphasizes equitable outcomes for populations that have faced systemic discrimination. As AARP's charitable affiliate, we serve AARP members and nonmembers alike. Through vigorous legal advocacy and evidence-based solutions, and by building supportive community connections, we foster resilience, advance equity and restore hope. To learn more, visit or follow @AARPFoundation on social media.

For further information: AARP External Relations:, 202-434-2560