Saturday, 15 June 2024

Attorneys general condemn federal action rolling back protections for seniors in nursing homes

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier 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) condemning federal actions that would delay the enforcement of protections for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries who receive care in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs).

The recent actions roll back 2016 CMS regulatory reforms instituted to improve the safety and well-being of nursing home residents by providing protections against abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

In the letter, the attorneys general proactively express their grave concerns in anticipation of the June rulemaking period that will revisit requirements deemed to be burdensome for facilities.

"It is our duty to be vigilant of the health and safety of our aging loved ones. America’s seniors who reside in skilled nursing facilities deserve quality care from trained and capable staff,” said Attorney General Becerra. “California has made great strides in holding accountable those who take advantage of vulnerable communities. The Trump Administration is now attempting to strip our seniors of crucial protections that shield them from nursing home abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This is reckless. The California Department of Justice stands ready to take any action necessary to protect our loved ones.”

“Sadly, because the elderly tend to suffer physical ailments and memory difficulties, they are particularly vulnerable to abuse,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “I stand with Attorney General Xavier Becerra in calling for adequate regulation and oversight of nursing homes, and in opposing federal guidelines proposed by the current administration that would undermine basic standards of care. We cannot put profits ahead of basic human dignity.”

In 2016, a set of CMS long-term care reforms were instituted to prevent the spread of infections in nursing homes; improve training for staff; provide protections against abuse, neglect, and exploitation of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries; and ban arbitration agreements.

These standards were scheduled to take effect in three phases. The second set of reforms was scheduled to take effect on Nov. 28, 2017.

However, CMS delayed the implementation of certain penalties by 18 months and lowered the frequency and amount of penalties for past violations. Civil monetary penalties are an essential tool to ensure nursing facilities comply with care standards and protect their residents.

In his letter to HHS, Attorney General Becerra warned that 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 (BMFEA).

BMFEA recovers taxpayer money and protects the integrity of California’s healthcare system by investigating and prosecuting those responsible for abuse, neglect and fraud committed against elder and dependent adults in care facilities.

BMFEA also works with whistleblowers and law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute fraud perpetrated on the Medi‑Cal program at large. In essence, a rollback of these important and much needed long-term care regulations will result in greater challenges for holding criminals and other violators accountable.

Joining Attorney General Becerra in sending the letter are the attorneys general of: Connecticut, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting consumers and defending Californians' healthcare access and security.

In August 2017, Attorney General Becerra, along with 16 fellow Attorneys General, submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommending that it maintain, not diminish, its pro-patient approach that protects patients’ rights by prohibiting pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home and other long-term care contracts.

If you suspect abuse or neglect of elders or dependent adults in care facilities, call BMFEA’s Hotline immediately: 1-800-722-0432.

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