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Providers in the state of Michigan are confident a proposal that aims to improve the timeliness and consistency of the state’s survey process for nursing homes will receive support from state senators after easily passing the House last week. 

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to get back to is a fair, consistent and timely [survey] process in the state of Michigan,” said Melissa Samuel, president and CEO of the Health Care Association of Michigan. 

The measure, HB 5609, was passed by House lawmakers on Thursday and is now awaiting action in the Senate, where providers expect strong support. The proposal updates several licensure, inspection and reporting requirements for nursing homes under the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). 

Among the changes, the legislation calls for removing an annual reporting requirement to the state’s House and Senate from LARA on the number of night and weekend complaints, the average length of time it takes for the agency to respond to a nursing home complaint and the number of citations disputed through information dispute resolutions. 

It also calls for LARA to employ an individual to serve as a quality improvement officer, who would have to measure the agency’s certification process to ensure fairness, accuracy and timeliness of the survey and enforcement process.

The quality improvement officer would also have to present findings and actions taken toward improved quality of the survey and enforcement process to an advisory workgroup at each semiannual training session for nursing home surveyors and providers and review and confirm the accuracy of the annual report required under the act. 

The proposed legislation is the result of collaborative work groups started back in 2021 between providers, the regulatory agency and surveyors, according to Samuel and Dalton Herbel, director of public policy for LeadingAge Michigan. 

“At that time, a significant number of our members were experiencing challenges with the survey [process] in the state of Michigan, and we began discussions with the regulatory body bringing our concerns forward,” Samuel told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Monday. 

She added that inconsistencies and open timelines were major challenges for providers within the survey process and this measure aims to address that. A federal study earlier this year found that there have been widespread survey delays nationwide among state survey agencies. 

“Through no fault of their own, many providers would be put into the discretionary denial of payment with a ban on new admissions [due to lack of timeliness within the survey process],” she said. “At that time, as we tried to recover from the pandemic, our challenge is trying to rebuild admissions, [and] to have a ban on admissions, it’s devastating.” 

Herbel told McKnight’s Monday he’s confident it will improve the “communication between provider and regulator leading to a more collaborative survey environment and better outcomes for Michigan’s long term care residents.”