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Failing Nursing Homes Will Now Face Tougher Penalties

empty wheelchairs in a dark hallway of a nursing home.

Can harsher punishments help prevent nursing home abuse and neglect?

Nursing homes that are currently on a watch list for providing substandard care will face tougher federal penalties for future violations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced.

The new penalties apply to 88 facilities – fewer than 0.5 percent of nursing homes in the country that have been identified as a "special focus facility."

The Special Focus Facility (SFF) program was created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide additional monitoring of nursing home facilities with a history of problems with the quality of care they provide to residents.

The announcement is part of an effort by the Biden-Harris Administration to increase accountability in the nursing home industry, improve the quality of facilities, and increase the safety of residents.

Demanding better care for residents

"Let us be clear: We are cracking down on enforcement of our nation's poorest-performing nursing homes," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the tougher penalties. "As President Biden directed, we are increasing scrutiny and taking aggressive action to ensure everyone living in nursing homes gets the high-quality care they deserve. We are demanding better because our seniors deserve better."

The revisions to the SFF program include the following:

  • Tougher requirements – Facilities must demonstrate that they have made improvements before they can "graduate" from the SFF program and no longer face increased scrutiny.
  • Potential termination of federal funding – Facilities that do not improve while in the SFF program face possible termination from Medicare and/or Medicaid programs.
  • Increased enforcement – Facilities in the SFF program that continue to be noncompliant and do not show improvement face more severe penalties.
  • Incentives for improvement – Facilities that graduate from the SFF program but then show another decline in enforcement face extended monitoring and progressively severe actions.

Facilities with more than a single violation will face at least three years of monitoring. CMS is also studying the idea of implementing staffing ratio requirements for facilities.

"People in this country's nursing homes deserve access to safe and high-quality care, and facilities that aren't providing that level of service need to improve their performance or face the consequences," said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

Call an experienced attorney if you suspect abuse or neglect

Facilities placed in the SFF program are inspected about twice as many other nursing homes, not less than once every six months.

The administration also announced $80 million worth of grants for the training and hiring nursing home staff. The funds will be distributed to healthcare organizations, trade groups, and labor unions to train.

Residents who live in substandard facilities are at risk of nursing home abuse and neglect. Types of abuse and neglect include failure to provide proper medical care, medication errors, poor nutrition and diet, failure to provide proper hygiene, failure to maintain safe and sanitary premises, negligent security, and abuse that is physical, emotional, financial, or sexual.

If you think a loved one may be the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, it's important to get legal advice as soon as possible. An experienced nursing home neglect and abuse lawyer can review your loved one's situation and advise you of your options. Contact attorney George S. Johnson to schedule a free consultation. Serving clients in Metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia.

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