A stressed nursing home operator looks at a computer while on the phone
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The state of Pennsylvania is pushing to adopt stronger requirements and regulations during the application and review process for potential nursing home buyers before a change in ownership can be approved. 

State industry leaders said they expect the tougher requirements on nursing home buyers to be duplicated nationwide, especially after the focus the Biden administration has placed on the issue. 

“We believe it’s best to blaze the trail, rather than follow in the footsteps of those who have already made substantive changes,” Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Tuesday. 

The state’s Department of Health issued the proposed regulation in early March. It calls for requiring nursing home buyers to show their financial stability, corporate history, regulatory history in other jurisdictions and plans for the management of the facility during the application. 

It also proposes requiring long-term care nursing facilities to conduct facility assessments at least quarterly to determine their resource needs to provide sufficient care. 

PHCA and LeadingAge PA were among the groups to submit public comments on the matter. The public commenting period on the proposed regulation ended last week. Both groups were generally supportive of the new proposed process but expressed concerns about the delays the facility assessment could cause providers in getting deals done. 

Provide concerns 

LeadingAge PA in a statement to McKnight’s Tuesday said it’s concerned that any delays caused by DOH through the collection and review of extensive documentation could serve to further devalue a facility already in a tenuous financial position from years of underfunding by the Medicaid program. 

“Ongoing access to care and services within the commonwealth is the responsibility of both the regulators in our Department of Health and the funders that have systematically ignored Medicaid costs to deliver high quality care. As our members move forward, the primary goal remains to ensure ongoing quality services are available in every community,” said Garry Pezzano, LeadingAge PA president and CEO.  

“Transparency in ownership schemes has the potential to ensure both taxpayers and regulators have accountability in funding expenditures through the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” he added. 

Shamberg said PHCA has called for a more robust application and review process for years, and that the group is finally glad to see that Pennsylvania may soon implement stronger policies and procedures. The goal is to ensure those who want to operate here have a proven track record and a plan for the years ahead. 

“Our hope is that this new process won’t delay or postpone any potential change of ownership; rather, it will provide the checks and balances that any new operator should be subject to when attempting to purchase a facility,” he told McKnight’s. “Ultimately, this will better ensure high-quality care for our most vulnerable residents.” 

National spotlight 

For the first time ever, federal health officials last week posted previously non-public data that highlights nursing home ownership changes in an effort to increase transparency. President Joe Biden has also called for more scrutiny on private-equity ownership in his expansive nursing home reform package. 

Shamberg added that “given the ongoing messaging from [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] and the Biden Administration, changes like these are certainly coming to the long-term care continuum – whether providers, workers, and advocates like them or not.” 

“We hope aspects of this proposal will be looked to as a national model, as accountability will be more and more important in the years ahead,” he said. 

The deadline for the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission to review and comment on the proposal is May 18. The rule will become effective immediately if finalized.