LeadingAge fires back at Senators wanting tougher nursing home enforcement

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Two weeks after a dozen Senators expressed “deep concern” about the impact of delaying and reducing financial penalties against nursing homes, one of the profession's leading groups is firing back.

LeadingAge is disputing calls by a group of 12 Democratic senators, who want to restore some nursing home regulations.

As McKnight's reported last month, the Democratic senators' letter specifically noted a series of CMS memos issued since President Donald Trump took office that make it more difficult for federal regulators to fine or deny federal payments to nursing homes that don't meet certain quality and safety standards. Also, in November, CMS imposed an 18-month moratorium on some fines related to its Final Rules for participation, which had been in development for years to address industry concerns such staffing levels, medication management and behavioral health interventions.

“We think the letter may reflect some misunderstandings and misinterpretations of CMS's guidance,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in a statement Wednesday. “In reality, nothing in the three CMS memos changes the requirement that nursing homes comply with federal regulations and correct deficiencies. The memos do not weaken enforcement of this requirement.”

Smith Sloan emphasized in the statement that any delays in imposing civil monetary penalties for care deficiencies under Phase II of new requirements are temporary. Plus, the memo doesn't affect monetary penalties for not complying with other federal care standards. And, there are plenty of other ways to penalize providers for violating those new requirements, such as directing plans of correction or providing technical assistance and direct training, according to the statement.

“LeadingAge understands and appreciates your concern on behalf of nursing home residents and their families. We have additional proposals for improving the federal-state nursing home oversight system and would like to have the opportunity to work with you and your staff on these initiatives,” the organization's CEO concluded in the statement. Her group represents more than 6,000 not-for-profit organizations in the aging-services field.

The American Health Care Association, the nation's largest nursing home organization, has also voiced disagreement with the senators' recommendations. Clifton J. Porter II, senior vice president of government relations, said last month that his organization has called for more regulatory relief for the long-term care industry, in the face of daunting budget cuts.