Lawmakers hammered the owner of a shuttered Florida nursing home Thursday, saying that in the wake of resident deaths in Hurricane Irma they could not understand how he was still able to hold an ownership stake in at least 11 other facilities.
During a Thursday House committee hearing to explore abuse, neglect and subpar care at nursing homes, experts from several government agencies were asked to testify. One hot topic: Concerns about a lack of oversight after a dozen-plus residents died last year at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, FL, following Hurricane Irma.
Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) expressed dismay that Jack J. Michel, M.D., the owner of the nursing home, still holds an ownership stake in “at least” 11 other healthcare facilities.
Hollywood Hills was terminated from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services programs, but nothing stopped Michel from previously taking part in a healthcare fraud scheme at a Florida Hospital, and then turning around and buying a nursing home, Harper said.
“It can’t be emphasized enough that it should not take a tragedy like what we’ve seen at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills to make CMS mindful or take action in response of conditions at nursing homes that threaten residents’ well-being,” Harper said.
Harper asked whether more can be done to keep Michel from participating in government payment programs. Kate Goodrich, M.D., chief medical officer for CMS, said nothing prevents him from having ownership in Medicare facilities. It can only bar someone who has been convicted of a felony or is on the OIG exclusion list, she said.
Goodrich also noted that CMS is still on track to implement Phase 3 of its Final Rules of participation for the industry, after a moratorium, with facilities expected to be compliant by November 2019. Senate Democrats had expressed concern earlier this year about that delay.
Ruth Ann Dorrill, regional inspector general for the HHS Office of the Inspector General, testified that her office believes CMS has created a framework to better oversee nursing homes, but must improve on execution. One OIG analysis noted that one-third of Medicare residents in nursing homes experienced harm from their care, and more than half of those events were preventable.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) also urged policy makers to avoid more regulation on an already overburdened nursing home industry.
“At some point here, as public policy people, we want what everybody wants—quality, safe care, especially for this vulnerable and difficult, fragile population,” he said. “And sometimes, government just overreacts and says we need a new rule, we need a new regulation, we need another something, which in the end eats up the resource that’s so hard to get.”
Testimony and a recorded version of the hearing is on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website.