Senators Blame Government Regulating Office for Growing Number of Nursing Home Deficiencies
On Tuesday, July 23, bi-partisan members of the Senate Finance Committee, led by ranking committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), once again raised alarming concerns over the rising amount of physical, verbal, mental and sexual abuse incidences occurring inside U.S. nursing homes. In addition, and not for the first time this year, confusion regarding the current lack of oversight role the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is playing, and funding needs to support sufficient resident-to-staff ratios were recognized and discussed at great length.
Several lawmakers referenced a same-day released report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found:
- Abuse deficiencies cited in nursing homes more than doubled in four years, increasing from 430 in 2013 to 875 in 2017.
- The most common physical and verbal abuse reported was by nursing home staff, at 58 percent.
- 13 states have no background check process for nursing home employees or facility owners, opening the possibility that an unlawful provider could be receiving Medicaid.
“Not only have abusive incidents doubled in recent years, but the GAO has found that CMS – the agency charged with ensuring that these facilities meet federal quality standards – often cannot access information about abusive incidents after they occur and, therefore, cannot take the necessary steps to remedy the situation,” said Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-DE).
The GAO report included these six recommendations to overhaul the rise in abuse incidences:
- Require that state survey agencies submit abuse and perpetrator type in CMS’s federal databases for deficiency, complaint, and facility-reported incident data and that CMS systematically assess trends in these data.
- Develop and disseminate guidance — including a standardized form — to all state survey agencies on the information nursing homes and covered individuals should include on facility-reported incidents.
- Require state survey agencies to refer complaints and surveys to law enforcement immediately (and, when applicable, to Medicaid Fraud Control Units) if they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime against a resident has occurred when the complaint is received.
- Conduct oversight of state survey agencies to ensure referrals of complaints, surveys and substantiated incidents with reasonable suspicion of a crime are referred to law enforcement (and, when applicable, to MFCUs) in a timely fashion.
- Develop guidance for state survey agencies clarifying that allegations verified by evidence should be substantiated and reported to law enforcement and state registries in cases where citing a federal deficiency may not be appropriate.
- Provide guidance on what information should be contained in the referral of abuse allegations to law enforcement.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the chairman of the committee agreed, “CMS needs to ramp up its oversight efforts and fix the problems identified by the Government Accountability Office.”
This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time, lawmakers discuss these issues. Be sure to visit Levin & Perconti’s Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Blog weekly and participate in our social communities to stay up to date.
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