John O’Connor

If you are running a skilled care facility these days, it might not seem like Uncle Sam is easing up on the rules or penalties. But that is surely happening. And we have some bottom-line proof.

Fines levied against providers are down by an average of nearly $11,000 since President Trump took office. According to Kaiser Health News, federal records show that facility fines have dropped, on average, to $28,405. When President Obama was in office, they were at $41,260.

And we wonder why Trump is more popular among the business class? Actually, we don’t. He’s been pretty clear from the get-go that reducing the red tape and oversight that cripples many firms was a top priority. And by all indications, he has been as good as his word here.

One of Trump’s better money savers — at least as far as operators are concerned — has been a change in the way fines are implemented. Under Obama, such penalties generally continued to accrue for each day a facility was out of compliance. Under the current regime, a single fine is issued for two-thirds of infractions.

The Trump administration also has done a better job of hearing industry concerns with an empathetic ear. For example, operators were given a year-and-a-half moratorium against being fined for violating eight new health and safety rules.

And in what may turn out to be the sweetest gift of all, the White House revoked an Obama rule barring facilities from requiring prospective residents to accept arbitration over litigation should a dispute arise. That alone could save the sector millions in court settlements. Not to mention the additional messy damage that can accompany guilty verdicts.

To be sure, not everyone is happy about the new push toward regulatory relief. Pro-consumer groups claim that such changes are putting more residents at risk for injury and death.

But the industry is hardly buying such arguments. As far as most operators are concerned, the regulatory pendulum is finally swinging back into the common sense zone. Moreover, they feel that recent shifts are encouraging operators to solve problems, instead of simply writing checks.

Not sure how many operators are wearing MAGA hats in public these days. But I’m willing to bet that, at least on a professional level, most are a lot happier with Trump in the White House than his predecessor. Or the next presidential candidate the Democrats might serve up.

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.