The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has announced they will hold a hearing tomorrow, Thursday, September 6th, to address the abysmal care and recent reports of abuse and neglect in U.S. nursing homes. The hearing will take place at 10:15 am ET (9:15 CT) and can be watched through a live stream available here.
The hearing, officially called “Examining Federal Efforts to Ensure Quality of Care and Resident Safety in Nursing Homes,” is set to hear testimony from 3 witnesses:
- Dr. Katie Goodrich, Chief Medical Officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
- John Dicken, Director of Health Care for U.S. Government Accountability Office
- Ruth Ann Dorrill, Regional Inspector General for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services
All three witnesses are expected to give their knowledge of federal oversight of nursing homes, as well as evidence of widespread issues related to paltry staffing and an alarming number of instances of abuse and neglect.
Evidence from the OIG is particularly important, given they have just launched a large investigation into how CMS is regulating nursing homes, prompted by the release of nursing home staffing data this summer. The report is expected by 2020 and will be at least the second major OIG investigation into skilled nursing facilities since just last summer. Last August, just before Hurricane Irma struck, the OIG released results of their study into incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect. They found that over 25% of all allegations went unreported to the proper authorities and reprimanded CMS for not doing enough to force nursing homes to report these instances, as well as to punish nursing homes for their deceit.
CMS Has Remained Silent on Previous Demands for Answers on Nursing Home Quality
Republican Representative Gregg Harper, Chairman of the subcommittee responsible for conducting the hearing, has expressed concern for the “horrific instances of abuse, neglect, and patient harm occurring in nursing homes.” Rep. Harper also referenced last year’s tragedy at Florida’s Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where at least 12 residents died due to heat-related conditions when the facility lost power during Hurricane Irma.
Rep. Gregg Harper is not the only federal official looking for answers. Just a few weeks ago, Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon sent a letter to CMS chief Seema Verma, demanding answers on how the federal government planned to address minimal staffing and punish nursing homes who had lied about staffing numbers. The spotlight on staffing began after CMS released its first reports on nursing home hours after the switch to the Payroll Based Journal system, an electronic submission platform in which nursing homes submit their staff hours directly to CMS. The aim of the new system is to cut back on nursing homes “fudging” staffing hours, but since the data was made public, the focus has been on the huge discrepancy between self-reported hours and the new payroll based staffing hours for the same time periods.
7 out of 10 nursing homes were found to have exaggerated their staffing hours when self-reporting. Ms. Verma has never responded to Senator Wyden’s request.