A national news story charging that some nursing facilities illegally evict residents when funding runs out, among other reasons, made providers wince during the long holiday weekend.

The NBC story reported that many facilities discharge longer-term Medicaid residents to make room for more lucrative short-stay Medicare residents. Long-term care ombudsmen received 10,610 complaints about discharges and transfers in 2017, an uptick from 9,192 in 2015, according to the report. The news outlet cited the example of a facility in Bishop, CA, that discharged a resident who was recovering from back surgery when her Medicare coverage ended, even though she was not yet healed.

Providers reacted to the news report Monday, noting that while they cannot defend offenders, those facilities that discharge residents improperly are more the exception than the norm.

“Skilled nursing centers aim to provide quality care for all patients and residents. The truth is that involuntary discharges are rare,” David Gifford, MD, MPH, senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs at the American Health Care Association (AHCA), said in a statement.

“This article primarily reports on examples of short-stay rehabilitation patients being discharged once their Medicare benefit expires. There are limits to Medicare coverage and in many cases, those limits may be unclear or confusing to patients.” 

He continued, “Skilled nursing centers operate within a strict framework of federal and state regulations, some of which guide discharges to a hospital or other healthcare setting. We will continue to educate our members and provide feedback to CMS on proper discharging procedures to keep everyone safe.”

LeadingAge, which represents nonprofit facilities, noted that it is committed to “following appropriate discharge requirements with adequate discharge planning and support.

“This particular news story is built upon a review of specific citations and ombudsmen reports. Each situation is unique; not having reviewed each one, we are not in a position to comment on specifics. LeadingAge does not defend bad care. In fairness, however, it must also be said that many of our nursing home members have provided months of free care to residents while waiting for Medicaid applications to be processed. And for some residents, alternative placement is not possible so they remain in nursing homes.”