NURSING HOMES: HCFA Urges States to Boost Oversight
The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that HCFA officials, "concerned about the precarious finances of some big nursing home chains" have been exhorting state officials by telephone to "redouble efforts to ensure the health and safety of nursing-home residents." In addition, HCFA has prepared a draft letter for Sally Richardson, director of its Center for State and Medicaid Operations, to the states, pointing to several national nursing home chains -- including Vencor Inc. and Sun Healthcare Group Inc. -- as "the focus of special concern." The letter warns that nursing home companies, under pressure from cuts in federal reimbursement, may take "cost-cutting measures which could impact on the quality of care in their facilities." Sun Healthcare officials commented, "It is HCFA that has brought on the huge financial losses the industry is facing because of how the prospective payment system is being implemented."
'Sparring' with Shalala
The Journal reports that the letter surfaced in a Senate Budget Committee hearing yesterday, in which Chair Pete Domenici (R-NM) warned that because of changes to Medicare under the 1997 budget cuts, "we may be on the verge of many closures" of nursing homes (McGinley, 4/23). CongressDaily reports that Domenici and HHS Secretary Donna Shalala spent much of the hearing sparring over Medicare reimbursement. Domenici called on HHS to make immediate regulatory changes to help ease the situation. "We need some help now," he said, "We don't believe your hands are tied." Shalala countered that only Congress can change the reimbursement regulations, and that new home health and nursing home data are needed before it can do so. "We have to make sure the changes we make are accurate," she said (Morrissey, 4/22).