Still licking wounds from an aggressive Senate Finance Committee hearing in March, industry leaders were emphasizing the positive and bracing for the Tuesday morning release of a new General Accountability Office report on abuse and neglect reporting.

The new report leaves little doubt that nursing homes will be on the hot seat at today’s Senate hearing. The release is labeled “Nursing Homes: Improved Oversight Needed to Better Protect Residents from Abuse.”

The GAO is expected to report that abuse deficiencies more than doubled from 2013 to 2017. The watchdog agency likely will issue recommendations related to state survey agencies submitting data on instances of abuse and reporting suspicions of a crime to law enforcement.

The Finance Committee’s hearing is called “Promoting Elder Justice: A Call for Reform.” It will delve into the GAO report, as well as June reports from the Office of Inspector General, Health and Human Services. These addressed abuse or neglect in nursing homes may have resulted in around 1 in 5 high-risk hospital emergency room Medicare claims in 2016, and how skilled nursing facilities may not be accurately reporting incidents.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, and can be live-streamed here.

Discussion will include whether SNF providers reported incidents correctly to surveyors, and whether Medicare claims data could be used to identify abuse or neglect. 

Today’s hearing is expected to discuss what data is required or shared by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and what is being self-reported by nursing homes. 

John E. Dicken, Director, Health Care, GAO, and Megan H. Tinker, Senior Advisor for Legal Review, Office of Counsel to the Inspector General at HHS, are scheduled to testify first, after Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-OR) make introductory remarks.

Testifying on the other panel will be Robert B. Blancato, national coordinator for the Elder Justice Coalition; Lori Smetanka, executive director for The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care; and Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.

“Our number one priority is and will always be the safety of our nursing home residents,” Parkinson said in a statement Monday. “Nursing homes, in recent years, have made significant improvements in the quality of care provided. In fact, nursing home care remains high for 18 of the 24 quality outcomes measured by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.”

In other prepared comments, LeadingAge highlighted successful methods of improving workforce commitment to care. In particular, it noted the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Justice at Hebrew Home at Riverdale by RiverSpring Health in New York, which both providers shelter and screens residents for past abuse. It also noted Safe Care for Seniors, a program pushed by LeadingAge Minnesota, that focuses on how providers can renew their commitment to give safe, quality care to residents.

LeadingAge, however, also criticized the level of funding committed to preventing elder abuse, noting that the Older Americans Act “is due for reauthorization and it is chronically underfunded,” and also that The Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program “is due for reauthorization and also needs increased funding.”