Message from the White House: Don't trust nursing homes

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Ever wonder how much regard the White House has for long-term care operators? A brief filed last week makes the answer abundantly clear: very little.

In court papers filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Administration argued that Medicaid payments to nursing homes have the potential to become unwarranted and that this proclivity could continue unchecked. As a remedy, states should be allowed to slash Medicaid payments as they see fit, federal lawyers argued.

Like many things out of the White House, this one has a political purpose: Yes, the brief surely will infuriate many providers – especially those with extensive experience with just how favorable Medicaid payments tend to be. But the action may also encourage Republican governors to sign on to Obamacare's Medicaid expansion program – if only to trim costs.

And just so there's no misunderstanding about where providers' stand in the eyes of the White House, the brief adds that “There is no general mandate under Medicaid to reimburse providers for all or substantially all of their costs.” Guess the Oval Office's legal eagles don't want providers getting any bizarre ideas, like the crazy notion that Medicaid is some kind of welfare program.

And for you lovers of irony, the brief was filed the same week as U.S. News & World Report released its fifth annual “Best Nursing Homes” ratings. The yearly update highlights the top facilities in each state and nearly 100 major metropolitan areas – as the publication eagerly exclaims in its marketing materials

Judging by the publication's fanfare, it would be easy to conclude that the ratings are the result of careful research and hard digging by its editorial team. It would also be wrong.

In one of the more shameful recent examples of claiming another's work as one's own, the publication essentially repurposes the Nursing Home Compare stats previously compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

It's not quite plagiarism. But these rankings are a far cry from original reporting. Near as I can tell, the Oval Office has not weighed in on this dubious practice.

So for those of you keeping score at home: The White House felt compelled to defend state efforts to arbitrarily cut Medicaid rates, arguing providers could potentially do something wrong. But when a national magazine acts like it did work that was actually performed by federal employees, no official response is merited.

As they say, your tax dollars at work.

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McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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