By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
The Trump administration is actively reversing nursing home guidelines previously put in place under President Barack Obama. The current administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury.
The change in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols was requested by the nursing home industry. The American Health Care Association (AHCA) has complained that under President Obama, inspectors focused excessively on catching wrongdoing rather than helping nursing homes improve or prevent them.
Since 2013, federal records show that nearly 6,500 nursing homes have been cited at least once for a serious violation. Common citations include failing to protect residents from avoidable accidents, neglect, mistreatment and bedsores.
In 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) discouraged its offices from imposing fines, even in the most serious health violations, if the error was a “one-time mistake.”
According to Dr. Kate Goodrich, director of clinical standards and quality at CMS, unnecessary regulation was the main concern that health care providers raised with officials. “Rather than spending quality time with their patients, the providers are spending time complying with regulations that get in the way of caring for their patients and doesn’t increase the quality of care they provide,” Goodrich said.
Medicare has various ways of applying penalties. It can impose a specific fine for a particular violation. It can assess a fine for each day that a nursing home was in violation. It can deny payments for new admissions.
The average fine in recent years has been $33,453., but 531 nursing homes amassed combined federal fines above $100,000., records show. In 2016, Congress increased the fines to factor in several years of inflation that had not been accounted for previously.
Dr. David Gifford, AHCA’s senior vice president for quality, said daily fines were intended to prompt quick remedies but were pointless when applied to past errors that had already been fixed by the time inspectors discovered them.
The change in policy aligns with Trump’s promise to reduce bureaucracy, regulation and government intervention in business.
In November 2017, CMS terminated a Florida Nursing from the Medicare program home after 14 patients died during a hurricane. You can learn more about this incident and CMS sanctions by clicking the link above.
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Rau, Jordan. “Trump Administration Relaxes Financial Penalties Against Nursing Homes.” Kaiser Health News (KHN). (December 31, 2017). Web.
“Trump Administration Relaxes Financial Penalties Against Nursing Homes.” The Washington Post. (December 31, 2017). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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