Pragmatism: Surveyors put away their big sticks

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James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

One of the biggest stories of the summer easily has been the news that full enforcement of nursing homes' new survey system will be postponed a year. 

After the announcement, cheering could be heard from the halls of Kennett Square to the cubicles of Sioux Falls, and beyond.

Indeed, it is good news for nursing home operators and all of their compliance officers, whose blood pressure should have lowered at least a few millimeters by now. If only for a while.

Per the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' June 30 memo on the subject, the feds are still going to expect providers to follow the new rules. They just won't be coming after any non-compliers with their biggest sticks.

Offenders instead will be sent to study hall and/or be directed to write a note about how they would change their behavior. That's old-school parlance for receiving additional in-service trainings and being required to write plans of correction. 

It beats dealing with civil monetary penalties, denials of payment or termination, some of the standard threats and punishments. However, it must be pointed out, those will still be an option for the Phase 1 quality requirements, which went into effect Nov. 28, 2016.

In other words, no one has a get-out-of-jail-free card for anything already in play.

Back to the education theme, a McKnight's reader likely had it right about this delay business. The commenter, under one of our online articles on the topic, pointed out that the delay is likely for surveyors' own benefit as much as it is providers'. 

The educated hunch is regulators aren't, and wouldn't be, ready to enforce the new provisions come Nov. 28, so a postponement was in everyone's best interest. Why else would the delay be declared so early? Last fall, CMS had no problem springing hundreds of pages of new requirements on providers and then giving them just a few months to come into compliance.

Regardless of the reason, providers should “take the win,” as the McKnight's article commenter “Bucky” put it. There are, after all, still the potential gutting of Medicaid, ongoing labor challenges and plenty of litigious-happy plaintiffs and prosecutors to worry about.

Yes, take the win. Goodness knows there are never enough of them to go around.