By Steve Moran
A big thanks to Jim Berklan at McKnight’s for breaking this story. According to CMS, 26,000 nursing home residents and 34,000 workers have gotten sick or at least tested positive for COVID-19; another 26,000 residents and 450 workers have died.
Sobering numbers without a doubt.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced that CMSs solution is to increase the fines on nursing homes. The notice is a bit vague saying in one place:
“. . . we are outlining new instructions for state survey agencies and enforcement actions for nursing homes that are not following federal safety requirements . . .”
This would suggest that every nursing home that gets dinged for anything to do with infection control will be dinged.
Then in another place, it says:
“. . . will increase fines for providers that consistently perform poorly in infection control measures . . .”
If the second statement is really the operative statement, then maybe this will not be so bad, but I wouldn’t count on it.
I can only believe this is the result of pressure in the form of backroom politics and media stories.
The Real Impact
We already know that increasing regulations and fines are not the way to improve the quality of care in this country. If that worked we would have the finest nursing homes in the world. The honest truth is that while we have some wonderful nursing homes, there are too many that are not very good, some even crummy, and regulations have not fixed that.
It will, of course, make the politicians and the public media happy. It will likely make the ambulance-chasing nursing-home-suing attorneys even happier. It will also increase the cost of providing care in nursing homes and likely actually make the life of nursing home residents and team members worse.
We Have Some Responsibility Here
We need to stop playing nice, assuming nice will get the policymakers to take us seriously. In truth, this disaster is largely caused by government policy and we are taking it sitting down like weaklings. There are three things we need to do:
- We need to put the blame where it belongs, which is on the government.
- We need to demand a complete overhaul of the regulatory and reimbursement system for nursing homes. Instead, we just ask for little fixes, which is why we are where we are. A complete overhaul would save the system money, a lot of it. It would give residents a better experience, a lot better experience.
- We need to be honest with ourselves and with the world and acknowledge that there are some really terrible, grim nursing homes in the country that should be closed and if there is justice the owners and operators of some of them should be in jail for murder and elder abuse.
We must stop protecting these people. More about this in another article coming in a few days.
The question remains: What are we going to do?
PS: If you are not a nursing home operator, don’t think you have dodged a bullet. They are coming for all of senior living, not just nursing homes. We are in this together.