NURSING HOMES: HCFA Announces Tough New Regs
HCFA Administrator Nancy-Ann Min DeParle yesterday announced new federal rules imposing tougher penalties on wayward nursing homes, including civil fines of up to $10,000 per violation and a requirement that states investigate any complaint within 10 working days. Until now, nursing homes could avoid fines by fixing a complaint within a certain number of days, and states had to investigate complaints of immediate jeopardy within two days and other complaints in a timely manner. DeParle also announced an education effort, including a national campaign to educate residents and their families about abuse and neglect and a new Web site -- Nursing Home Compare at www.medicare.gov -- that provides state inspection results of every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified home. "Today's actions are one more chapter in our ongoing campaign to assure that nursing home residents get attentive, good quality care, and that their concerns are taken seriously and addressed," DeParle said, noting that these efforts build on the Clinton administration's initiative last summer to improve the policing of these homes (HCFA release, 3/16). CongressDaily reports that a General Accounting Office report due out tomorrow will address the way HCFA is handling nursing home issues (Rovner, 3/16). Those who have seen the GAO audit say it raises some concerns and that a congressional hearing has been scheduled later this month, the Asbury Park Press reports.
Big Stick Approach?
Patient advocates welcomed the changes, but said it will take more than new laws to improve care. "If a state really wants to enforce the law and takes actions to enforce the law, we'll see change. Otherwise it's just a paper tiger process," said Elma Holder of the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (Roberts, 3/17). Industry officials questioned HCFA's approach. Benno Salewski of the Arkansas Health Care Association said, "You motivate a child and correct a child not only with a stick, but with a carrot. HCFA is using the stick approach" (Francis, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/17). Ed Towey of the Florida Health Care Association agreed, saying, "We have always said the harsh and punitive approach is counterproductive" (Chachere, Tampa Tribune, 3/17).