Federal Government Reduces Nursing Home Fines for Violators

A recent article in the New York Times highlighted one of the effects of the federal government’s plan to decrease regulation on American business (Administration Eases Nursing Home Fines in Victory for Industry). The administration is reducing the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or allow them to be subjected to risk of injury.

Since 2013, 40% of nursing homes in the U.S have been cited for serious violations, such as mistreatment, neglect, and bedsores, and Medicare has fined two-thirds of those facilities. The American Health Care Association, a trade group for the nursing home industry, argued that federal inspectors have been more focused on punishing mistakes than helping nursing homes provide better care for their residents.

Under the Trump administration’s new guidelines, regulators are discouraged from assessing fines, a move applauded by industry groups. “Rather than spending quality time with their patients,” said Dr. Kate Goodrich, director of clinical standards and quality at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “The providers are spending time complying with regulations that get in the way of caring for their patients and don’t increase the quality of care they provide.”

However, nursing-home resident advocates strongly disagreed, arguing that reducing penalties will have a negative impact on patient safety. “They’ve pretty much emasculated enforcement, which was already weak,” said Toby Edelman, a senior attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

The new guidelines would prevent nursing homes from being penalized more than the maximum fine per incident of $20,965 even for continuing, flagrant transgressions that remain uncorrected for months. According to Janet Wells, a consultant for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, these policy changes would reverse course just as “some egregious violations and injuries to residents are being penalized – finally – at a level that gets the industry’s attention and isn’t just the cost of doing business.”

Although there are certainly some valid reasons for attempting to reduce government bureaucracy, once again the federal government is supporting policies that favor profits for big business over the safety of the American people. We must do everything we can to protect our country’s most vulnerable citizens, including nursing home residents.

If you suspect your loved one may have been subjected to nursing home negligence, our experienced injury attorneys can assist you in discovering whether abuse has actually occurred and advise you regarding the appropriate legal action. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.