Nursing homes are receiving a major reprieve from the Trump Administration. Guidelines put in place under the Obama Administration have been scaled back by the Trump Administration. Fines and penalties imposed on nursing homes that harm residents or place residents at severe risk of injury have been scaled back.
The American Health Care Association, the main trade group in the nursing home industry, lobbied Trump to relax the penalties that the group calls “excessive.”
The group claims that under the previous Administration, the inspectors focused on wrongdoing rather than helping nursing homes improve their service.
“Nursing homes are meant to be places where elderly and disabled people can go for skilled care and compassion. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents fall victim to abuse and negligence at the hands of their would-be caregivers. Due to physical and/or mental disabilities, nursing home residents are often vulnerable to mistreatment and are unable to protect or defend themselves,” states Bogdan Martinovich.
Studies show that 4-out-of-10 nursing homes, or 6,500, have been cited for at least one serious violation since 2013. Medicare, under the authority of the Obama Administration, fined over half of the nursing homes found to be in violation.
The new guidelines put in place are meant to discourage regulators from handing down fines to even the most serious violations, including resident death.
Lower fines and penalties are highly likely when fines are imposed against violators.
The change is a commitment from Trump to lessen the bureaucracy in the country, and government intervention and regulation in business. Health care providers raised concerns that unnecessary regulation was harming the industry.
“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,” states Dr. Kate Goodrich.
Records show that the average fine from Medicare was $33,453, with 531 nursing homes having fines that exceeded $100,000. Medicare imposes fines in different ways. Medicare can choose to fine a facility by denying payments for new admissions, by violation and even by each day that the violation occurred.
Fines were increased in 2016 after it was found that there were several years where Congress didn’t account for inflation.
The new rules against the way nursing homes are fined have been gradually rolled out throughout the year. CMS told its regional offices that it discourages fines for one-time mistakes even if that error included the most serious health violations.
Daily fines for violations were also discouraged in a July memo. Daily fines are only recommended for major violations.
Advocates for nursing home patients fear that relaxing the penalties and fines against nursing homes will undo any progress that the former Administration made in deterring negligence and abuse. The Trump Administration has also exempt nursing homes from eight new safety rules for 18 months.
Patient advocates claim that deregulating nursing homes has made it more difficult for families to find nursing homes for their loved ones.
Supporters of nursing homes claim that smaller facilities simply don’t have the resources to be able to meet all of the regulations from “A to Z.”