Elderly residents of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in San Clemente and throughout California could lose important federal protections against nursing home abuse and neglect, according to a recent article in Lake County News. However, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is working to prevent this from happening. As the article explains, “Becerra has led a coalition of 16 states and the District of Columbia in submitting a letter to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).” The letter “condemn[s] federal actions that would delay the enforcement of protections for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries who receive care in skilled nursing facilities.”
In 2016, regulatory reforms resulted in improved “protections against abuse, neglect, and exploitation.” During the June rule-making period, Becerra and other attorneys general have “grave concerns” that the federal government will “revisit requirements deemed to be burdensome for facilities.” In other words, Becerra and others expect that CMS will change the way it deals with protections for seniors in SNFs, allowing facilities to be less burdened by regulations, thereby jeopardizing the health and safety of the patients at these facilities.
Revisiting the Long-Term Care Reforms of 2016
In order to understand exactly what is at stake with regard to CMS and protections for seniors at skilled nursing facilities, it is important to understand the reforms that occurred in 2016. As a press release from CMS explains, on June 28, 2016, it issued a final rule “to make major changes to improve the care and safety of the nearly 1.5 million residents in the more than 15,000 long-term care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
The CMS regulatory changes were designed to improve the general health and safety of patients at nursing homes, as well as to prevent elder abuse and neglect. More specifically, the final rule aimed to do some of the following:
- Reduce unnecessary hospital admissions;
- Reduce rates of hospital infections;
- Strengthen residents’ rights in long-term care facilities;
- Ensure proper training for staff members caring for elderly residents;
- Improve planning for patients’ care, including discharges and follow-up care;
- Ensure that skilled nursing facilities take into account the health and individual needs of residents when staffing the facility;
- Providing residents with the information they need to help manage their care; and
- Developing antibiotic use protocols and monitoring antibiotic use in facilities.
When the rule was finalized and published, the acting administrator of CMS emphasized that “the health and safety of residents of long-term care facilities” was among the “top priorities” of CMS. Now, the agency may be on the verge of rolling back these protections.
Attorneys General Speak Out Against CMS Regulatory Changes
The CMS rule changes were scheduled to take effect over a period of time, and the second set of reforms were supposed to take effect back in November. CMS delayed, and nursing home residents have not seen many of the protections outlined in 2016.
According to Becerra, “CMS’ recent actions to roll back protections, if allowed to advance, would not only threaten the mental and physical security of seniors in nursing homes, but also would potentially create additional challenges for California’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.” Fifteen other attorneys general have joined Becerra in calling for CMS to move forward with the implementation of planned reforms. By the end of the month, CMS’ plans with regard to the 2016 reforms likely will become clearer.
Contact a San Clemente Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
In the meantime, if you believe an elderly loved one may have been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, a San Clemente nursing home abuse attorney can speak with you about options. Contact the Walton Law Firm today for more information about how we help elderly residents and their families in San Diego County.
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(image courtesy of Jorge Lopez)