Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new steps by Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) through its Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to improve the quality and safety of nursing homes, to protect vulnerable residents and the health care heroes who care for them, and to crack down on bad actors. The Administration is committed to these urgent actions as first steps toward fulfilling a broader commitment to ensure taxpayer dollars go toward the safe, adequate, and respectful care seniors and people with disabilities deserve—not to the pockets of predatory owners and operators who seek to maximize their profits at the expense of vulnerable residents’ health and safety.
Ensuring Taxpayer Dollars Support Nursing Homes That Provide Safe, Adequate, and Dignified Care
CMS is launching four new initiatives to ensure that residents get the quality care they need—and that taxpayers pay for. These initiatives will help ensure adequate staffing, dignity and safety in their accommodations, and quality care.
- Establish a Minimum Nursing Home Staffing Requirement. The adequacy of a nursing home’s staffing is the measure most closely linked to the quality of care residents receive. For example, a recent study of one state’s nursing facilities found that increasing registered nurse staffing by just 20 minutes per resident day was associated with 22% fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 26% fewer COVID-19 deaths. CMS intends to propose minimum standards for staffing adequacy that nursing homes must meet. CMS will conduct a new research study to determine the level and type of staffing needed to ensure safe and quality care and will issue proposed rules within one year. Establishing a minimum staffing level ensures that all nursing home residents are provided safe, quality care, and that workers have the support they need to provide high-quality care. Nursing homes will be held accountable if they fail to meet this standard.
- Reduce Resident Room Crowding. Most nursing home residents prefer to have private rooms to protect their privacy and dignity, but shared rooms with one or more other residents remain the default option. These multi-occupancy rooms increase residents’ risk of contracting infectious diseases, including COVID-19. CMS will explore ways to accelerate phasing out rooms with three or more residents and to promote single-occupancy rooms.
- Strengthen the Skilled Nursing Facility (“SNF”) Value-Based Purchasing (“VBP”) Program. The SNF-VBPprogram awards incentive funding to facilities based on quality performance. CMS has begun to measure and publish staff turnover and weekend staffing levels, metrics which closely align with the quality of care provided in a nursing home. CMS intends to propose new payment changes based on staffing adequacy, the resident experience, as well as how well facilities retain staff.
- Reinforce Safeguards against Unnecessary Medications and Treatments. Thanks to CMS’ National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes, the nation has seen a dramatic decrease in the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes in recent years. However, inappropriate diagnoses and prescribing still occur at too many nursing homes. CMS will launch a new effort to identify problematic diagnoses and refocus efforts to continue to bring down the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications.
To Be Continued…..