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Bill Threatens Nursing Home Enforcement
The U.S. House and Senate are considering a bipartisan bill that opponents say would seriously undermine the government''s ability to protect nursing home residents from dangerous care. The Medicare Education and Regulatory Fairness Act--S. 452 in the Senate and H.R. 868 in the House--would allow nursing homes to delay correcting serious violations, even if residents had been severely harmed or were in immediate danger.
"Some members [of Congress] who are usually advocates for nursing home residents have endorsed this bill," says Janet Wells, Public Policy Director for the National Citizens'' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR). "We believe they and other members who are being asked to support it may not understand its impact on nursing home residents."
If the bill were enacted, any Medicare-certified nursing home that was dissatisfied with inspectors'' findings could appeal them before there was a penalty or a requirement to correct the problem. During the appeals process, the government would be powerless to require the facility to correct the problems, even if the surveyors believed the violations jeopardized residents'' health or safety.
Moreover, under the bill the government:
- could not stop the nursing home from admitting new residents until it could care for them safely;
- could not proceed to close a facility with a history of serious violations;
- could not put a particularly bad nursing home under new management or appoint a monitor to oversee residents'' care; and
- could not impose an immediate fine on a facility that had had substandard performance on survey after survey.
In addition, nursing homes could challenge a federal nursing home regulation in court, even if they had never been cited for violating it. This, warns the NCCNHR, would open the floodgates to lawsuits by the industry to overturn quality of care and quality of life standards that were developed "through an open, democratic public review and comment process."
The NCCNHR is urging those concerned about quality of care in nursing homes to send a letter (not an e-mail) to their representatives and senators asking them to oppose the Medicare Education and Regulatory Fairness Act (S. S. 452 in the Senate and H.R. 868 in the House).
For more information on the NCCNHR, visit their Web site at http://nccnhr.org