Lawmakers shut down proposal to raise nursing home fines to $10,000 per day

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A plan to drastically increase fines and oversight in Massachusetts nursing homes was rejected by state lawmakers on Thursday.

The proposal would have raised maximum facility fines from $50 per day to $10,000 per day, and channeled the extra fine money to a trust fund aimed at improving nursing home care. The beefed-up fines were taken out of a state budget approved by lawmakers last week, but language creating the trust fund remains — without the funds to support it, the Boston Globe reported.

State Sen. Mark Montigny (D), the proposal's sponsor, told the Globe the rejection of the extra fines “boils my blood.”

“This is one of those where you shake your head and say, we need resources, we claim we are in a tough budget year, and everyone says we need a higher fine,” Montigny said. “It's just an industry that doesn't want to be held accountable, and that's unfortunate because there are a lot of good [nursing homes] that would benefit from closing down the bad ones.”

A provision of Montigny's proposal that would require the state's Center for Health Information and Analysis to conduct a review of the nursing home industry was also shut out of the approved budget. Eldercare advocates condemned the lawmakers' rejection of the oversight proposals as a “slap in the face” to the state's vulnerable skilled nursing population.

The proposals followed calls for more transparency in the state's nursing home industry, as well as concerns raised about the quality of the care provided in Massachusetts facilities.

State lawmakers did give the green light to a $35.5 million funding boost to cover wages, benefits and other costs of nursing home direct care staff. The approved funding is significantly less than the $90 million originally requested by the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, but the trade group still expressed relief for the additional front-line funds.

“We applaud legislators for their continued commitment to quality nursing home care and the staff who dedicate their lives to providing quality care for more than 150,000 residents annually,” Abraham Morse, president of MSCA, said in a statement. “We urge the governor to sign into law this important provision.”