A new bill aims to increase public access to state nursing home performance data for consumers — and also begin providing care quality incentives for facilities designated as “centers of excellence.” 

Proposed by Gov. Ned Lamont (D) Wednesday, the measure would mandate the creation of a website to publish transparency data about quality ratings, complaints, staffing levels and other metrics provided by Connecticut state health officials and ombudsmen. 

The bill also would require the Department of Public Health to design a voluntary pilot program that would “provide incentives” to nursing homes that apply and demonstrate a high quality of care, including using “available federal funding”.

“Our proposal,” Lamont said, “provides a comprehensive strategy that moves beyond a system of minimum standards and penalties to one that rewards high quality, aligns the industry around person-centered care, and promotes transparency.”

The state’s new transparency dashboard would be created using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and would display similar metrics to what is already available at the federal level. 

Providers optimistic

State care leaders told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Friday they are eager to work with officials on the new initiative.

The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities hopes to help further develop the provisions of the bill in partnership with state policymakers, said  CAHCF President and CEO Matthew Barrett.

“Connecticut nursing homes share and support the focus, attention and enhanced resources proposed to elevate quality as reflected in the governor’s recommended budget adjustments,” Barrett told McKnight’s.

The state’s leading nonprofit association echoed Barrett’s sentiments.

“LeadingAge Connecticut supports providing the consumer with information that will assist them in choosing a nursing home,” said Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut. “It is our understanding that this proposal is targeted toward gathering existing public information, including the quality measures from nursing home compare, and presenting it in a consumer-friendly way on the state’s website.”

Carrot and stick

The new bill is the latest in a recent push to regulate elder care by Connecticut policymakers. In the past two years, for example, they have raised the required staffing hours for facilities and increased regulatory oversight of mergers and acquisitions. 

State associations have pushed back on similar measures in the past, due to fears that they would strain the resources of an already struggling long-term care sector. 

“The COVID pandemic resulted in some of the most acute-care issues in nursing homes and congregate care settings,” Lamont said. “That’s why we are focusing on strengthening industry standards.”

But the bill’s proposed incentives signal that the state is willing to do more than simply punish nursing homes that are struggling to provide high-quality care.

Other states have taken similar action to increase their access to nursing home quality data in recent years, such as New Jersey in 2022. At that time, regional care leaders told McKnight’s that New Jersey would also be looking at data similar to what’s available at the federal level, but that sometimes this data isn’t fully up to date or doesn’t capture the full picture of how care is provided at a certain facility.