Bill Would Eliminate Federal Nursing Home Bonus Payments
Source: Des Moines Register (3 April 2009)
Congress is considering legislation that would eliminate taxpayer-funded bonuses to nursing homes.
The legislation is an amendment to the budget bill that has been debated by Congress.
The amendment was accepted by unanimous consent of the Senate on Thursday, but the bill itself has yet to be approved.
The Des Moines Register reported last November that nursing homes throughout the country are earning hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bonuses despite violations of basic health-and-safety standards.
Iowas nursing home bonus program, now seven years old, was one of the first in the nation.
Nationally, the total cost of the bonuses is unknown.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which approves and helps fund each of the bonus programs, does not track the payments.
Currently, there are 81 bonus-payment programs in 36 states.
The Register examined eight programs in the seven states where recent regulatory violations dont disqualify a nursing home from receiving a bonus that is touted as being directly related to quality care.
Those eight programs cost taxpayers $312 million per year.
Some of the largest bonuses to poor-performing homes have been in Oklahoma, the home of Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, a medical doctor.
Coburn authored Thursdays amendment, telling his Senate colleagues that taxpayers shouldn’t be billed for bonuses paid to inferior care facilities.
Coburns amendment would prohibit federally funded bonuses to nursing homes and any other government contractors that fail to meet basic performance requirements.
Coburn has likened the bonuses to those paid to executives at American International Group, or AIG, the insurer that has received $182 billion in federal bailout money.