CMS targets improper SNF discharges

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A new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services initiative will attempt to reverse a controversial trend of evicting residents who can no longer pay from the nation's skilled nursing facilities.

In a memo dated Dec. 22, the agency reminds surveyors that federal regulations only allow facilities to discharge residents in specific circumstances, such as improving health or needs that cannot be met within the current facility. Though residents can be discharged for non-payment, some have criticized the process. They claim certain nursing homes operators sometimes begin the process before residents are given time to complete third-party or Medicare/Medicaid arrangements.

In 2015, CMS reported, “discharge/eviction” was the most frequent nursing home complaint category with national Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs.

“Discharges which violate federal programs...can be unsafe and/or traumatic for residents and their families,” the memo said. “In some cases, residents have become homeless or remain in hospitals for months.”

CMS is considering reinvestment proposals to prevent improper facility-initiated discharges, potentially through better resident and family education; better care plan design; or formation of a collaborative group focusing on resident placement and transitional care.