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New Appointment to Lead Nursing Home Reform Efforts

Yesterday, President Obama appointed Dr. Donald Berwick as the new Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS is the federal agency that regulates nursing homes and all other facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds.

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, one of the nation’s foremost nursing home reform organizations, issued a statement on President Obama’s choice, explaining how they believe Dr. Berwick will handle nursing home law issues.

Many have criticized the President for making a “recess appointment,” essentially meaning that Dr. Berwick will not require Senate approval be officially be given the job. However, the Consumer Voice notes that the CMS position had not been permanently filled since 2006, and that immediate action was needed to ensure that America’s health and long-term care systems were being properly administered.

Specifically, Dr. Berwick will spearhead the process to implement the provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Those provisions include expanding access to home and community based services and improving the quality and safety in long-term care facilities. This health care reform law passed in March also requires CMS to provide substantial oversight in nursing home reporting requirements pertaining to ownership, operations, financing, staffing, and quality. Also, nursing homes are now required to perform background checks on all care workers and clearly report all cases of neglect, abuse, and exploitation in nursing homes.

The Consumer Voice further urged Dr. Berwick to take action on other areas of concerns to nursing home residents including the severe understaffing in many homes, quality of care problems, and lax enforcement of state Nursing Home Reform Law.

Our Chicago nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti hope that Dr. Berwick makes a smooth transition and advocates for the rights of all those receiving long-term medical care. Any step toward limiting elder abuse and nursing home negligence is a step in the right direction.