Is the Trump Administration Making Nursing Home’s Unsafe?

Will the Trump Administration’s decision to scale back federal regulations that govern nursing homes affect the safety of our seniors? Government regulation can make our lives safer and that is certainly true in the nursing home industry. Regulations put into place years ago have worked to make nursing homes accountable for a minimum standard of care that families and the public can rely on , but that may be changing . In response to increasing pressure from the nursing home industry, the Trump Administration is rolling back the frequency and severity of fines levied against nursing homes found to be in violation of regulations. These are the bad nursing homes, ones that do not abide by the regulations in place for many years . Why do we want to protect them ? Aren’t monetary fines one way to be accountable?

In October of 2016, the Obama Administration, issued a Final Rule which revised the requirements that Long Term Care Facilities had to meet to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. This was the first comprehensive review and revision of standards in over two decades.

The nursing home industry opposed these requirements from the get go. The industry won on November 24, 2017, when the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made it clear it would not be imposing monetary penalties for several of the new requirements.

According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy, these actions will put residents at an even greater risk of harm. For example, in September 2016, health inspectors faulted Lincoln Manor, a nursing home in Decatur, Illinois. The nursing home, over a period of eight days, failed to treat the wound of a patient whose implanted pain-medication pump gradually slipped through a ruptured suture in her abdomen. The patient died. Lincoln Manor was fined $282,954. An Administrative Law Judge called the penalties “quite modest” given the “appalling” care. If the fines had been issued in accordance with the November 2017 decision by CMS, the maximum fine Lincoln Manor would have paid is $21,000.

Advocates for the industry claim reducing fines and regulations will allow more time and resources for residents but are the potential risks to the safety of our elderly really something we should risk?
We shouldn’t let the “fox guard the hen house” and regulations work to ensure that nursing homes do right by our seniors. I see too much nursing home abuse in my practice, pressure ulcers, falls and assaults by both staff and other residents. Shouldn’t the government be helping us take the best care of our families and one way is to enforce the regulations governing nursing homes .
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