Civil Money Penalty Funds
WISTV had an interesting article explaining the nursing home penalty system. It is disheartening to say the least. States have millions in fines that could provide testing, PPE, and staff to nursing homes during the pandemic. However, the Trump Administration refuses to release the $400 million in the Civil Money Penalty funds.
Every year millions of dollars flow to nursing homes from the fund. The fund is built from fines collected from nursing homes. These nursing home violated safety rules and standards. They placed the health and safety of residents at risk or in jeopardy. The federal government collects the fines then allocates them to states to use as grants to nursing homes.
Consumer advocates, industry experts, and health officials argue for CMS to direct those funds to combatting the deadly pandemic.
“In our view, the funds should be utilized to improve patient care,” said Mark Parkinson, ACHA’s president and chief executive officer. “We could make a big difference with this.”
However, CMS says the funds are “to support activities that benefit nursing home residents and that protect or improve their quality of care or quality of life.” Thousands of nursing homes report that they have staff shortages. Hundreds say they don’t have enough personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns or the ability to test residents. Advocates for nursing home resident say CMP money could help shore up problems exposed by COVID-19 – lack testing and PPE.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, which advocates for nursing home residents. “This is the time these funds should be unlocked.”
An InvestigateTV analysis of grants awarded in 2019 show that funded projects do not address short-staffing, poor infection control, and stopping preventable falls, abuse and neglect. Instead, CMS last year approved grants to nursing homes to buy an antique popcorn machine, create song playlists for residents and build gardens. CMS policy does not allow the fund to be used to pay for staffing!
“It’s grossly unfair to the families who have loved one who have been victimized by those facilities,” Lee said. “Where’s the justice for those families? There is no justice.”
CMS is only allowing nursing homes to tap into their state fund for a maximum of $6,000 to buy iPads and to purchase materials to make protective visitation barriers.
The U.S. depends on the Strategic National Stockpile during emergencies. However, the Stockpile still lacks critical supplies, nine months into the worst public health care crises this country has ever seen. The lack of leadership, plans, and resources was deficient. A combination of budget shortfalls, lack of domestic manufacturing, and delays in logistics has caused shortfalls in gloves, masks, and other supplies needed to weather this surge in COVID-19 cases.
In January, the state of South Carolina had enough money in its fund to award nearly $87,000 to every nursing home in the state. Many critics believe the CMP funds are nothing more than a “slush fund” for nursing homes.