Federal Government Reduces Use of Fines for Nursing Home Violations

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on December 28, 2017 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on April 25, 2024

nursing home patient with caneThe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is discouraging federal regulators from issuing fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them at risk of injury or death.

The CMS claims reducing the use of fines against nursing homes that neglect or abuse patients will shift focus away from unnecessary regulations and punitive punishment and allow health care providers to focus more on patient care.

However, the recent change in the CMS’s policy for fining negligent nursing homes may have originated within the nursing home industry, according to a New York Times article.

In a 2016 letter written to President Trump, the American Health Care Association (AHCA), the largest non-profit organization representing nursing homes, urged the federal government to ease regulations on the nursing home industry and reverse many Obama-era policies.

Advocates of nursing home patients’ rights’ claim that reversing the current regulations will put nursing home residents at an even greater risk of harm, injury or death, according to the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

Less Fines for Negligent Nursing Homes

Since 2013, approximately 6,500 nursing homes, or four out of every 10, have been cited at least once for a serious violation, according to Medicare records. Two-thirds were fined by Medicare, with common citations including failing to offer residents protection from avoidable accidents, neglect, mistreatment and bedsores.

In recent years, the average fine for a violation was $33,453. However, 531 nursing homes have received combined federal fines of more than $100,000. Additionally, Congress increased the fines in 2016 to account for several years of inflation that had previously not been accounted for.

Under the new federal guidelines, federal regulators are discouraged from imposing fines against nursing homes in certain situations, even if a violation resulted in a resident’s death. Additionally, the guidelines will likely lower fines for several nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Advocates Warn Against New Guidelines

The CMS argues that its new regulations will increase nursing home quality of care because health care providers will spend more time with patients and less time complying with federal guidelines.

However, advocates for nursing home residents oppose the CMS’s reversal and worry that the new guidelines will affect nursing home residents’ rights and living conditions.

According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy, the CMS’s new guidelines will have a profoundly negative effect on its own ability to efficiently enforce nursing home requirements against substandard facilities. The new changes will:

  • Create a distinction between different types of immediate jeopardy that does not exist in the federal regulations.
  • Allow CMS regional offices to lower per day civil money penalties.
  • Allow regional offices to select penalties and changes for violations in a manner that contradicts previous federal regulations.
  • Allow regional offices to decide whether to fine nursing homes for past violations at their own discretion.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy believes that by further weakening federal guidelines regulating nursing homes, the CMS will jeopardize patients’ safety and well-being.

Nursing Home Regulations Slowly Declined in 2017

Since the start of 2017, the CMS has been gradually been reducing federal regulation of nursing homes.

In June, the CMS announced its intention to reverse its previous ruling banning the use of forced arbitration in nursing homes. Reversing the previous ruling would continue to allow nursing homes to limit residents’ legal rights by denying them the ability to file a lawsuit if they experience abuse or neglect. By doing so, the CMS is allowing nursing homes to continue to have minimal accountability for how they treat residents.

In a July memo, the CMS discouraged the directors of state agencies that rate nursing homes from levying daily fines for violations that began before an inspection. A daily fine is a monetary penalty imposed on a nursing home for the amount of days the violation persisted.

Instead, the CMS recommended state agencies issue one-time fines that carry less civil monetary penalties. The decision is in accordance with the AHCA’s assumption that daily fines were senseless when issued for past errors that had already been corrected before being discovered in an inspection.

Additionally, the CMS relaxed federal oversight of nursing homes in October when it dissuaded its regional offices from issuing fines against serious health violations if the error was a rare or one-time mistake. However, the CMS said that nursing homes should still be fined for intentional acts of neglect for residents’ health and safety or systemic mistakes.

Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Fight for Patients’ Rights

At PKSD, we strongly advocate for the rights of nursing home patients and will fight to hold a negligent nursing home facility accountable for harming a resident.

We will continue to provide our legal services to help victims of nursing home abuse and neglect obtain the justice and compensation they deserve.

If you believe your loved one has been harmed because of nursing home negligence, contact us to schedule a free, no obligation consultation to review your claim. Our nursing home abuse attorneys will help you fight for your loved one’s rights on a contingency fee basis, which means you do not have to pay any upfront legal fees. We only require compensation if we help you obtain justice and compensation for your claim.

Call 414-333-3333 to get started today.

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