HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson

Promoting quality care in long-term care settings is one of the top management challenges facing the Department of Health and Human Services in the next year, according to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General.

While HHS historically has played a significant role in monitoring nursing home quality, the aging U.S. population and changes in the healthcare system have made it an especially pressing issue, the report stated.

“Ensuring quality of care in nursing facilities and home- and community-based settings” was named the No. 7 management challenge for HHS, on a list of ten. Federal law requires the inspector general to issue a summary of management challenges on an annual basis. Although quality of care issues have been cited frequently, nursing home quality specifically has not been named a challenge in any of these summaries for at least the past six years.

The document summarized steps that HHS has taken to ensure long-term care quality, such as issuing guidance on operational matters and undertaking fraud and abuse enforcement actions.

The report also put forward several recommended actions, including the establishment of minimum federal qualifications for nursing homes’ Medicaid participation and the issuance of guidance on care plans and attendant supervision.

The growth of home- and community-based care presents special challenges to the department, as these settings have proven particularly vulnerable to fraud and abuse, according to the document.

Click here to access the complete report, released Tuesday.