In the past two years, more than 200,000 nursing home residents and staff have died from COVID-19, which accounts for almost a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
Nursing Home Safety is a Serious Issue
The White House recently announced a new set of reforms that will “improve the safety and quality of nursing home care, hold nursing homes accountable for the care they provide, and make the quality of care and facility ownership more transparent so that potential residents and their loved ones can make informed decisions about care”. Everyone deserves the right to quality medical care and by no means should a health facility cause a patient harm, or even result in their death. Seniors, people with disabilities, and others living in resident homes especially deserve reliable care because they are some of our most at-risk community members. These reform efforts will be a significant first step in the right direction towards protecting residents and getting them the care they both need and deserve!
New Reforms to Help Protect the Vulnerable
On Monday February 28th, 2022, before the State of the Union Address, the Biden-Harris Administration announced new steps by Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) through its Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve the quality and safety of nursing homes. A summary of the efforts include:
- Federal minimum staffing requirements for facilities
- Increased enforcement of regulations
- Cracking down on overcrowded rooms
- A $500 million increase to CMS’s survey budget
- New payment changes and updates to the Skilled Nursing Facility Value-Based Purchasing Program
- Efforts to decrease the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications
- A request for Congress to raise the dollar limit on per-instance financial penalties levied on poor-performing facilities from $21,000 to $1,000,000
- A new database for CMS to track and identify owners and operators across states
- Implementing Affordable Care Act requirements to collect and publicly report more corporate ownership and operating data
- Improving the rating website Care Compare
- HHS and other federal agencies examining the role of private equity, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and other investment ownership in the nursing home sector
- Lowering financial barriers to nurse aide training and certification
- Supporting state efforts to improve staffing and workplace sustainability
- Launching a National Nursing Career Pathways Campaign
- Continuing COVID-19 testing in long-term care facilities
- Continuing COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters in long-term care facilities
- Increasing the standards for on-site infection preventionists
- Examining and considering changes to emergency preparedness requirements
- Integrating new lessons on requirements for fire safety, infection control, and other areas
Leading Causes of Poor Care and Preventable Deaths
These reforms will begin to address issues and unacceptable conditions within the nursing home sector that have gone on for far too long. Failure to comply with Federal guidelines is widespread and even though tens of billions of federal taxpayer dollars are paid to nursing homes each year, too many facilities have continued to provide poor care that result in preventable resident harm. A Government Accountability Office report found that from 2013 to 2017, 82% of all inspected nursing homes had infection prevention and control deficiencies that were identified through Medicare and Medicaid surveys.
Another cause of these issues relates to private equity firms that buy up struggling nursing homes. Research shows that “private equity-owned nursing homes tend to have significantly worse outcomes for residents”. These investments in nursing homes have increased from $5 billion in 2000 to more than $100 billion in 2018 and now 5% of all nursing homes are owned by private equity firms. Unfortunately, the private equity model tends to put profits above people, which should never be the case. A recent study found that residents in nursing homes owned by private equity firms were “11.1% more likely to have a preventable emergency department visit and 8.7% more likely to experience a preventable hospitalization”, when compared to residents of for-profit nursing homes. Another working paper examined 18,000 facilities over 17 years and found that “private equity ownership increased excess mortality for residents by 10%, increased prescription of antipsychotic drugs for residents by 50%, decreased hours of frontline nursing staffing by 3%, and increased taxpayer spending per resident by 11%”. This data suggests that 20,150 lives were lost because of private equity ownership. An additional study even found that “private equity-backed nursing homes’ COVID-19 infection rate and death rate were 30% and 40% above statewide averages”.
Stepping into a Future with Safer & Higher Quality Medical Care
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that they plan to conduct a new study to determine adequate staffing needed and will issue the proposed rules within one year. As an Ohio Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect firm, we feel these reform efforts are a great start towards protecting vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities.
If you or a loved one have been impacted by this abuse or neglect, our Ohio Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect attorney, Allen Tittle, can help. Take the first step and contact us today for a FREE consultation or call us.
Do you have more questions about nursing homes? Want to make an informed decision about choosing the right nursing home? Download our FREE Ohio Nursing Home Guide today.
It is unknown how many of our vulnerable elderly fall victim to neglect or abuse each year since such actions are easily hidden from view and underreported. In fact, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA), 84 percent of abusive situations involving older adults go unreported or unrecognized.