State News for March 2015

WCHA's Jerry Reilly supports public-private insurance partnerships.
WCHA's Jerry Reilly supports public-private insurance partnerships.

SOUTHEAST:

Judge admits taking a bribe

ARKANSAS — A former circuit court judge recently admitted that a campaign contribution induced him to lower a jury award in a negligent death lawsuit brought by a nursing home resident's family.

Mike Maggio pled guilty earlier this year to charges that he took a bribe in exchange for reducing a $5.2 million judgment against a nursing home to $1 million, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Maggio faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He was removed from the bench by the state Supreme Court.

Medicaid eligible, after death

TENNESSEE — TennCare reversed its decision that earlier disqualified a frail 88-year-old woman's assistance request because of its interpretation of state asset-transfer laws.

Neva Holt died six days earlier after she and her family unsuccessfully battled for months with the state Medicaid agency over land Holt's children received. TennCare's position was Holt transferred the land to her children to hide assets that should have been used to pay for her nursing home care. But, as the family attorney's eventually prevailed in arguing, Holt never had official ownership of the land.

Family members told The Tennessean that their grandmother was shuttled from one facility to another until their funds ran dry and Holt was forced to stay with a disabled caretaker.

PLAINS/MOUNTAINS:

Backlog stalls surveys

IDAHO — Poor pay and case overload are plaguing the state agency charged with nursing home inspections, leading to epic backlogs of surveys and complaint investigations, lawmakers recently learned.

Tamara Prisock, administrator of the Division of Licensing and Certification for the state Department of Health & Welfare, told the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee that the agency's employee turnover rate has climbed in recent years from one departure in 2011 to 13 in 2013.

Prisock said the backlog is creating a great deal of stress on an agency that currently has 26 surveyors for more than 500 facilities, and inadequate numbers for residential assisted living facilities, certified family homes and developmental disabilities agencies. 

The result is a backlog of 275 overdue surveys, 135 open complaints awaiting investigation, and 11 facilities waiting for initial licensing or certification surveys, according to the Spokesman-Review online newspaper. Prisock has asked the Legislature for additional money for training.

Group pans nursing homes

KANSAS — Fewer than 4% of the state's nursing homes could be considered high-performing facilities, according to a nonprofit group that promotes quality for residents of care homes.

In its annual evaluation, Kansas Advocates for Better Care recently found that 12 of the 345 nursing homes in the state met performance criteria, which are based on deficiency rates cited in surveys from the Department for Aging and Disability Services. High-performers earn five or fewer deficiencies in each of the prior three years, according to Kansas City Public Media.

The group also found that 66 nursing homes in the state (51 of which were for-profit) were found to be low-performing, a benchmark achieved when 10 or more deficiencies are found in each of the prior three years. 

NORTHEAST:

Rehab owner spared prison

CONNECTICUT — The executive of a large nursing home chain averted a prison sentence after cooperating with prosecutors in the felony trial of former Gov. John G. Rowland (R).

Instead, Brian Foley, owner of Apple Rehab, received three years of probation, the first three months of which he must serve at a halfway house, and a $30,000 fine. He was convicted of misdemeanor conspiracy charges by skirting campaign finance laws and concealing the fact that he paid Rowland $5,000 a month for trying to help Foley's wife win a seat in Congress, the Hartford-Courant reported. Foley earlier had claimed the fee was paid to Rowland for consulting on his nursing home business.

Lisa Wilson-Foley, who ran an unsuccessful 2012 campaign in the state's 5th Congressional District, pled guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy charges and is awaiting sentencing. Rowland was convicted of conspiring to conceal his consulting salary from federal election regulators, and is awaiting sentencing.

Commission seeks better care

PENNSYLVANIA — A high-level legislative commission report is recommending a series of measures to improve the state's long-term services and supports system, including streamlining program eligibility, uniform assessments and possible rate modifications in the coming year.

Gov. Tom Corbett (R), who appointed the Long-Term Care Commission in early 2014 under the Healthy Pennsylvania initiative, praised the work of the commission for identifying ways to improve the quality of care for the aging and disabled. The state has the fourth-highest percentages of residents 60 and over, and nearly 2 million others with physical disabilities.

Among the report's recommendations are improving care coordination, service delivery and adopting uniform assessment methods designed to improve quality and outcomes.

MIDWEST

Industry wants $200M hike

MINNESOTA — Medicaid shortfalls are being blamed for nursing home closures, while the eldercare industry is seeking an immediate $200 million funding boost as part of a long-range proposed overhaul of the reimbursement system.

The funding request couldn't come at a better time. The state boasts a $1 billion budget surplus, according to published reports. Nursing homes received a $30 million rate increase just last session.

Among the proposals offered by Care Providers of Minnesota are worker benefits including better health insurance options and higher pay for nurses.

Disability hotline available

TEXAS — The state's Department of Aging and Disability Services established a new toll-free hotline that promises to connect the elderly and disabled to needed services.

Agency officials hope the hotline (855-937-2372) will promote greater access to the agency's services. Spokeswoman Melissa Gale said the hotline will be staffed by trained professionals who can tell callers what services are available in the area and even enroll them in certain services, including nursing, hospice care, personal care, housekeeping or respite care. 

Callers are routed to someone in the nearest DADS resource center. Once eligibility is determined and verified, the agency will connect callers.