Enhancing Accountability and Oversight
Holding nursing homes accountable for their performance requires a robust compliance program—a program that has adequate funding to perform inspections and that imposes meaningful penalties when deficiencies are found. Federal taxpayer dollars should not flow to nursing homes that are unsafe.
- Adequately Fund Inspection Activities. For over seven years, funding to conduct health and safety inspections has remained flat while the number of complaints about nursing homes has surged. To protect residents and crack down on unsafe nursing homes, President Biden will call on Congress to provide almost $500 million to CMS, a nearly 25% increase, to support health and safety inspections at nursing homes.
- Beef up Scrutiny on More of the Poorest Performers. CMS’s Special Focus Facility (SFF) program identifies the poorest-performing nursing homes in the country for increased scrutiny in an effort to immediately improve the care they deliver. The SFF program currently requires more frequent compliance surveys for program participants, which must pass two consecutive inspections to “graduate” from the program. The SFF program will be overhauled to more quickly improve care for the affected residents, including changes that will make its requirements tougher and more impactful. CMS will also make changes that allow the program to scrutinize more facilities, by moving facilities through the program more quickly. Facilities that fail to improve will face increasingly larger enforcement actions, including termination from participation in Medicare and Medicaid, when appropriate.
- Expand Financial Penalties and Other Enforcement Sanctions. CMS will expand the instances in which it takes enforcement actions against poor-performing facilities based on desk reviews of data submissions, which will be performed in addition to on-site inspections. In July 2021, CMS rescinded a Trump Administration change that lowered penalty amounts on bad actor nursing homes for harmful deficiencies by imposing only a one-time fine, instead of more aggressive per-day fines that charge for each day a facility is out of compliance. CMS will now explore making such per-day penalties the default penalty for non-compliance. CMS will also use data, predictive analytics, and other information processing tools to improve enforcement. President Biden is also calling on Congress to raise the dollar limit on per-instance financial penalties levied on poor-performing facilities, from $21,000 to $1,000,000.
- Increase Accountability for Chain Owners of Substandard Facilities. President Biden is calling on Congress to give CMS new authority to require minimum corporate competency to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, enabling CMS to prohibit an individual or entity from obtaining a Medicare or Medicaid provider agreement for a nursing home (new or existing) based on the Medicare compliance history of their other owned or operated facilities (previous or existing). He is further calling on Congress to expand CMS enforcement authority at the ownership level, enabling CMS to impose enforcement actions on the owners and operators of facilities even after they close a facility, as well as on owners or operators that provide persistent substandard and noncompliant care in some facilities, while still owning others.
- Provide Technical Assistance to Nursing Homes to Help them Improve. CMS currently contracts with Quality Improvement Organizations that help providers across the health care spectrum make meaningful quality of care improvements. CMS will ensure that improving nursing home care is a core mission for these organizations and will explore pathways to expand on-demand trainings and information sharing around best practices, while expanding individualized, evidence-based assistance related to issues exacerbated by the pandemic.
For too long, corporate owners and operators have not been held to account for poor nursing home performance. CMS will improve the public transparency of facility ownership and safeguard nursing home residents.
- . CMS will create a new database that will track and identify owners and operators across states to highlight previous problems with promoting resident health and safety. This registry will use information collected through provider enrollment and health and safety inspections to provide more information about prospective owners and operators to states. Giving the public a resource to better understand owners’ and operators’ previous violations will empower states to better protect the health and safety of residents.
- Improve Transparency of Facility Ownership and Finances. CMS will implement Affordable Care Act requirements regarding transparency in corporate ownership of nursing homes, including by collecting and publicly reporting more robust corporate ownership and operating data. It will also make this information easier to find on the Nursing Home Care Compare website.
- Enhance Nursing Home Care Compare: CMS will implement a range of initiatives to improve Nursing Home Care Compare, the rating website designed to help families pick a facility for their loved ones. Under the Biden-Harris Administration’s leadership, CMS has already published new measures on Care Compare, which allow users to consider nursing home staff turnover, weekend staffing levels, and other important factors in their decision-making process. When the new minimum staffing requirement comes online, Care Compare will also prominently display whether a facility is meeting these minimum staffing requirements. CMS will further improve Care Compare by improving the readability and usability of the information displayed—giving you and your family insight into how to interpret key metrics. Finally, CMS will ensure that ratings more closely reflect data that is verifiable, rather than self-reported, and will hold nursing homes accountable for providing inaccurate information. The President is calling on Congress to give CMS additional authority to validate data and take enforcement action against facilities that submit incorrect information.
- Examine the Role of Private Equity. As described above, private equity investors are playing a growing role in the nursing home sector, and published research increasingly indicates that facility ownership by investment groups leads to worse outcomes while costing taxpayers more—particularly as these owners have sought to cut expenses at the cost of patient health and safety, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. HHS and other federal agencies will examine the role of private equity, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and other investment ownership in the nursing home sector and inform the public when corporate entities are not serving their residents’ best interests.