State News for November 2015

Pope visits nuns protesting ACA provision
Pope visits nuns protesting ACA provision

Northeast

Pope visits nuns protesting ACA provision 

WASHINGTON D.C. — Pope Francis made an unscheduled visit to The Little Sisters of the Poor during his September trip to Washington D.C.  

The sisters, who operate 29 nursing homes across the United States, are among the groups that sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for an exemption from the contraceptive mandate included in the Affordable Care Act.

In July, a judge ruled that if the nuns wish to refuse contraceptive coverage for employees, they must sign an exemption waiver. The nuns have appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the waiver violates their religious freedom.

The Pope's visit lasted about 15 minutes and included no specific mention of the lawsuit, according to the Little Sisters' website. A Vatican spokesman told the press that the Pope's visit was meant as a “sign of support” in the sisters' fight.

Golden Living suit expanded 

Pennsylvania — A lawsuit against nursing home operator Golden Living has been expanded to include 11 additional facilities, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office announced in September. 

The facilities were added in response to more than 350 complaints filed against Golden Living facilities since the original lawsuit was filed in July, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane. 

Golden Living officials have said they plan to “vigorously” fight the claims, which they say are “retaliation” for challenging Kane in the lawsuit.

The expanded lawsuit is an added chapter in a saga of contention between Kane and the long-term care industry. Earlier this year, a group of Pennsylvania providers alleged that Kane has had an “improper” contingency deal with a private law firm.

The State Supreme Court issued a temporary suspension of Kane's law license in September, after a slew of claims that she leaked grand jury information and committed perjury, among other charges. 

Crackdown on nursing fraud

MASSACHUSETTS — Ten professional boards have joined a state investigation into nurse licensing procedures after the discovery that 13 people had obtained nursing licenses using false credentials.

Out of the 13 whose licenses were suspended or revoked for fraud, 12 worked at nursing homes. Those people allegedly reported that they had nursing licenses in other states, which allowed them to work in Massachusetts and exempted them from the state licensing exam through a reciprocity system.

The state's investigation will review the work of Professional Credential Services, the Nashville-based company used by healthcare providers to check applicants' backgrounds. 

Professional Credential Services failed to detect that the applicants' out-of-state licenses were fake, clearing them to work. Officials said they had not found evidence the nurses caused any patients harm. 

The investigation will extend to nursing licenses granted through reciprocity stretching back to 2010, the state health department said.

Past ACHCA head acquitted

New york — Albany County officials have requested the county's nursing home administrator be formally confirmed as executive director, following his acquittal on corruption charges.

Larry Slatky has served as administrator of the nursing home since 2014 on a consulting basis. In late September, Slatky was acquitted of two official misconduct charges based on accusations that he rigged a laundry contract so a friend's company would be awarded the contract. 

Slatky served two terms as board chairman of the American College of Health Care Administrators.

SNFs owe Medicaid $4.4M

MAINE — A federal audit has placed more pressure on Maine to collect Medicaid overpayments to nursing homes across the state.

The audit, released by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General in late August, showed Maine had yet to collect nearly $4.4 million in overpayments to 92 nursing homes. 

Those payments have exceeded the one-year federal repayment policy.

The OIG said Maine failed to implement the office's past recommendations for nursing home overpayments, which came after federal audits in 2008, 2009 and 2011. 

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said the state has agreed to work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to refund the overpayments.

Plains/Mountains

Sioux Falls may add beds

 

SOUTH DAKOTA  — A second South Dakota community might receive an exemption from the state's cap on nursing home beds.

Rapid City is currently the only area receiving an exemption from the state moratorium on new nursing home beds, which was enacted in 1988. The health department proposed adding an exemption for Sioux Falls in order to meet the need for more nursing facility spots.

The department also proposed changing the exemption for the two cities to cover “in or near the communities.” The current exemption only lifts the moratorium within the limits of the city. 

Encompassing broader areas makes more sense, officials say. Rapid City received its exemption from the state cap in 2012.

 

Midwest

Firefighters back to work

MINNESOTA — The fire chief and five other Maplewood fire department staff members placed on leave after the death of a nursing home resident were allowed back to work in September.

The first responders were placed on leave in August after stopping resuscitation efforts for a 71-year-old nursing home resident at the request of her husband, despite the fact that she had no “do not resuscitate” order. 

The police department and county attorney general ruled there was no criminal wrongdoing in the case, but city officials said the punishments came from the personnel's disregard for fire department policy.

“You are accountable for ensuring the department follows policies and procedures and you are directed to ensure department personnel are following them,” City Manager Melinda Coleman wrote in a letter to the fire department. Coleman called Fire Chief Steve Lukin's actions “inappropriate.”

 “We will turn this into a positive by way of reviewing our protocols and our medical direction with our medical director to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again,” Lukin told the Pioneer Press.

Abandoned SNF a ‘mess'

ILLINOIS — A private nursing home in East Moline that closed in 2013 still has medical records, medical equipment and employee files inside, causing concern for the city and the home's former employees.

City officials were allowed to go inside the former Forest Hill nursing facility after a pipe burst inside the abandoned building. 

“It's spooky. If anybody has ever watched ‘The Walking Dead,' that's what it looks like,” East Moline Mayor John Thodos told Quad Cities ABC affiliate WQAD. “We're left with a mess.”

Former employees called upon the state in late September to retrieve their records from the abandoned building, which isn't completely secured. 

When contacted about the issue, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office told WQAD it is “aware” of the situation, and cautioned former Forest Hill employees to watch for identity theft until the files were retrieved.