CMA Alert – October 11, 2018

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  1. President’s Medicare Op-Ed is Untrue
  2. Enforcement Weakens as Civil Money Penalties Shift From Per Day to Per Instance
  3. Elder Justice: What “No Harm” Really Means for Residents
  4. Webinar – Medicare Advantage Education & Enrollment Issues – Register Now

President’s Medicare Op-Ed Is Untrue

#SaveMedicareNow

The #SaveMedicareNow initiative seeks to educate and raise awareness about current proposed threats to Medicare this election season.

Voters must know where candidates stand on issues like Medicare privatization. Candidates must be committed to a strong Medicare program and to resisting threats to Medicare, including increasing efforts to privatize the program.

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Yesterday, USA Today published an Op-Ed by President Trump entitled “Democrats [sic] ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors.” In addition to the inflammatory rhetoric throughout the piece (which includes language reminiscent of the “Red Scare” fears used to oppose passage of Medicare in the 1960s), it is filled with false and misleading statements about the Medicare program and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Indeed, according to the Washington Post fact checker Glen Kessler, “almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood.”

As noted by the Center for American Progress in response to the op-ed, the President’s promises to “protect” Medicare are not consistent with the Administration’s support for, among other things, proposed budget cuts to Medicare and massive tax cuts that put extraordinary pressure on the federal budget. Similarly, contrary to stated promises to “protect” people with pre-existing conditions, this Administration has sought to eliminate such protections by supporting repeal of the ACA via legislation, gutting it through litigation, and actively sabotaging it through regulation.

As noted by media columnist Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post, the publishers of this Op-Ed “seem to have forgotten the axiom popularized by Daniel Patrick Moynihan: You’re allowed to have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.” Stoking fears about efforts to expand health insurance coverage to more people is not a productive way to address our nation’s health care and coverage challenges. Doing so while also spreading misinformation is both counter-productive and dangerous.

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Enforcement Weakens as Civil Money Penalties Shift From Per Day to Per Instance

            

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), more than 95 percent of nursing home deficiencies are cited as “no harm.” In other words, less than five percent of all nursing home violations of health, safety, and resident rights standards are identified as causing any resident harm or placing a resident in immediate jeopardy. Given that “no harm” deficiencies all too often include cases of significant pain, humiliation, and suffering, it is not surprising that, in the rare instances when harm or immediate jeopardy are cited, they can involve extremely egregious cases of resident harm and abuse.

The accurate identification of harm is important because CMS rarely imposes any financial penalty for “no harm” citations. As a result, most deficiencies identified during inspections are not remedied through meaningful financial penalties. This means that, too often, facilities face no repercussion for substandard care, abuse, or neglect.

Unfortunately, this situation has been greatly exacerbated by a policy change that substantially decreases the likelihood that a nursing home will face a meaningful penalty, even for cases of serious abuse, neglect, or death. On July 7, 2017, CMS issued new guidance on the use of CMPs. When violations have been identified, CMS may impose CMPs for either the number of days a facility was not in substantial compliance with a standard of care (per day) or for each instance that a nursing home was not in substantial compliance (per instance). Prior to the Trump Administration, per day CMPs were the default.

The revision makes clear that CMS Regional Offices (ROs) are to use per instance CMPs for past noncompliance, for continuing noncompliance identified before the inspection, and for noncompliance identified at the time of the inspection. While the guidance authorizes per day CMPs for certain situations, these exceptions are limited in scope. The 2017 revision amounts to a reversal from per day CMPs to per instance CMPs as the new default.

The following table, using CMS data (as of October 2018), shows the shift to per instance CMPs. In 2015, there were nearly twice as many per day CMPs imposed as per instance CMPs. As of October 2018, those numbers have flipped, with about twice as many per instance CMPs as per day CMPs.

The New York Times reported, “the change means that some nursing homes could be sheltered from fines above the maximum per-instance fine of $20,965 even for egregious mistakes.” The shift to per instance CMPs appears to be a signal to nursing homes that, even when violations of health and safety are cited, the penalty will likely be a fraction of what was previously imposed. In fact, in a January 2018 newsletter, CMS stated that it “heard” the nursing home industry before discussing the new guidance and the shift “to a per instance CMP instead of per-day CMPs for past noncompliance.”  

The federal Nursing Home Reform Law states that the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) has the duty “to assure that requirements which govern the provision of care . . . and the enforcement of such requirements, are adequate to protect the health, safety, welfare, and rights of residents and to promote the effective and efficient use of public moneys.” The shift to per instance CMPs undermines that essential mandate, and is a threat to resident safety and the appropriate use of public funds. CMS must cease the rollback of resident rights and protections.


For additional information and resources, please visit www.nursinghome411.org

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Elder Justice: What “No Harm” Really Means for Residents – Issue 9

Elder Justice: What “No Harm” Really Means for Residents is a monthly newsletter published by the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the Long Term Care Community Coalition. The purpose of the newsletter is to provide residents, families, friends, and advocates information on what exactly a “no harm” deficiency is and what it means to nursing home residents. Our latest issue has real stories from nursing homes in New York, California, Washington, and Georgia. Some examples of “no harm” deficiencies featured in this issue include a resident left sitting in his own feces for hours and staff grabbing a resident’s wrist in order to perform unwanted care. 

To read the latest issue of the newsletter or to access past issues, please visit: http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/newsletter-elder-justice-what-no-harm-really-means-for-residents/.

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Webinar – Medicare Advantage Education & Enrollment Issues

Wed, Oct 17, 2018 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT

This presentation will address Medicare Advantage changes for 2019, change in enrollment periods, the Medicare & You publication, and other CMS outreach and education materials.

Presented by Center for Medicare Advocacy Managing Attorney David Lipschutz, with Chiplin Senior fellow Ben Belton, and a special guest presenter form the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

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