Latest Senate Hearing Shows CMS Can Do More to Protect Nursing Home Residents
On Wednesday, March 6, 2019 another government session, this time led by the US Senate Committee on Finance, was held to discuss several disturbing reports of nursing home abuse and neglect and the lack of preventative measures and faulty reporting system used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to create environments for quality resident care. The hearing was led by Chairman, Chuck Grassley (R – IA) and Ranking Member, Ron Wyden (D – OR) with special panelist testimony delivered by family members of residents fallen victim to nursing home abuse or neglect.
A Minnesota woman heartbreakingly remembered her mother, an Alzheimer’s patient who was raped by care staff. During the hearing she said, “My final memories of my mother’s life now include watching her bang uncontrollably on her private parts for days after the rape, with tears rolling down her eyes, apparently trying to tell me what had been done to her but unable to speak due to her disease.” A woman from Iowa shared her family’s concern after their mother died in a nursing home ranked with the highest possible quality of resident care scores from CMS even though the organization had been seriously fined for physical and verbal abuse. The elderly woman was allegedly left in severe pain and may have been dehydrated days before her nursing home death.
Several health care policy leaders also joined the panel and referenced a recent US Senate Special Committee on Aging report that listed the many types of ongoing nursing home abuse and neglect residents are faced with:
“Lack of human dignity; lack of activities; untrained and inadequate numbers of staff; ineffective inspections and enforcement; profiteering; lack of control on drugs; poor care; unsanitary conditions; poor food; poor fire protection and other hazards to life; excessive charges in addition to the daily rate; unnecessary or unauthorized use of restraints; negligence leading to death or injury; theft; lack of psychiatric care; untrained administrators; discrimination against minority groups; reprisals against those who complain; lack of dental care; advance notice of state inspections; false advertising.”
An estimated 1.5 million individuals receive care from nursing homes nationwide each day, many of whom are living with serious physical and cognitive impairments, leaving them frail and remarkably vulnerable to these injustices. Most of these residents will lack family support and financial resources and are left dependent on the nation’s crippling health care system, funded by $170 billion through CMS. Although CMS is heavily regulated, basic quality of life and medical standard issues continue to be disregarded for these residents. CMS currently oversees approximately 16,000 facilities that receive government reimbursements used to pay for qualifying resident care.
CMS Rolled Out Announcement for Updated Care Standards Day Before Hearing
During the hearing, written testimony provided by Dr. Kate Goodrich, Director, and Chief Medical Officer Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services read, “Every nursing home resident has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and we expect every nursing home to meet this expectation. While nursing facilities have made progress towards these goals, there continues to be a strong and persistent need for ongoing improvement efforts around patient safety and quality of care in nursing homes.”
Goodrich’s testimony mimicked similar language shared by CMS the day prior to the hearing when the agency announced that care standards will be updated again in April of 2019 to the Nursing Home Compare database. Nursing Home Compare is an online tool for consumers and families to research nursing homes and review five-star quality ratings based on inspections, staffing and other quality measures.
In addition to the revised standards, CMS also committed to gather more guidance on how homes and families can identify the most serious abuse and neglect cases. CMS officials said in a release that the guidelines will aim to clarify “what information is needed to identify immediate jeopardy cases across all healthcare provider types, which we believe will result in quickly identifying and ultimately preventing these situations.”
In September of 2018, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations also held a hearing to address substandard care and recent findings of abuse and neglect in nursing homes. During those exchanges, the lawmaker from Chicago’s North Side district, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, expressed she was tired of listening to CMS describe new rules and disciplinary measures as “an important first step.” Rep. Schakowsky went on to say that since the 1980’s she’d been watching the nursing home industry and has been inundated with hard evidence of nursing home abuse and neglect. She described how she had grown impatient of hearing that CMS is just starting initiatives when they should be finishing them.
Rep. Schakowsky may be right. How many more Senate, House, joint, or special committee of Congress hearings need to happen, or testimony heard from grieving family members of nursing home abuse and neglect victims, before nursing homes and CMS really position a hard fix to address the chronic and deadly care issues impacting one of nation’s greatest generations?
Levin & Perconti: Chicago’s Legal Voice for Victims of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
If someone you love has been the victim of abuse or neglect while residing in a nursing home, rehabilitation center, or other long or short-term care facility, the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti want to help you. Our attorneys have nearly three decades of experience in successfully bringing nursing home systems overseen by CMS to task for failing patients.
With over half a billion dollars recovered for our clients, our attorneys are committed to bringing justice to families whose loved ones have been harmed by these facilities. Please, contact us now for a FREE consultation at 312-332-2872 in Chicago, toll-free at 1-877-374-1417, or by completing our online case evaluation form.