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Policy changes lead to lower fines for nursing homes

The White House has changed the way it is fining nursing home for violations. According to NPR, these changes have caused the average fine to drop to $28,405 from the average of $41,260 during President Obama’s last year in office. Some experts worry lower fines will mean nursing homes will have less reason to end practices that endanger nursing home residents.

After lobbying by the nursing home industry, the White House has changed from fining nursing homes for each day they are in violation to issuing a single fine for about two-thirds of compliance issues. The administration also issued an 18-month moratorium on penalties for eight new health and safety guidelines for nursing homes. The changes also included getting rid of a ban that stopped facilities from forcing residents into arbitration instead of settling a dispute in court. Arbitration is notoriously unfavorable to the plaintiff.

More citations are issued, but for smaller amounts

Though the amount collected from fines has significantly decreased, the number of citations has increased by 28 percent. President Obama rolled out a new policy toward the end of his term that caused this increase. The rule forces regulators to punish a care facility every time a resident is harmed. This has resulted in a larger number of smaller fines.

Experts worry smaller fines do not change behavior

Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, fears smaller fines will not change behavior in nursing homes. He stated for small nursing homes this could have an effect, but for larger facilities, the fines are insignificant.

Nursing homes believe changes support facilities

A spokeswoman for American Health Care Association, a trade group for nursing homes, is happy with the current administration’s changes. She believes the government is now issuing fines in a way supports facilities solving problems, rather than just penalizing them.

The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) agrees that daily fines were ineffective. The agency stated fines were determined by when random inspections occurred, which could result in wildly different fines.

While the single instance fine may appear less random, it also almost guarantees that nursing homes will pay significantly lower fines. Fines cannot be higher than $21,393, for a single fine or a per day fine. For facilities that do not contest the fine, their fines are reduced by 35 percent. That means a maximum fine of $13,905.

Facilities that put residents in imminent danger can have fines reduced

Even facilities that commit immediate jeopardy violations can have their fines reduced. Immediate jeopardy violations occur when a nursing home does something that puts residents at risk for immediate harm. NPR states a New Mexico nursing home was fined when regulators discovered the workers were not properly disinfecting equipment to keep infectious diseases from spreading in the nursing home. Under the new rules, CMS reduced the facility’s daily fines from $54,600 to $20,965. A Mississippi nursing home was fined just $13,627 for running out of medications.

Average per-instance fine is less than $9,000

With the current administration, the average per-instance fine is below $9,000. A policy expert points out that for multimillion dollar businesses, $9,000 amounts to basically nothing.

Nursing home abuse is difficult to prove

Proving nursing home abuse can be difficult, and it occurs a variety of ways. Your loved one may not be receiving proper medication, suffering from unclean conditions or may have developed bedsores from lack of attention. They may also be suffering from emotional or physical abuse. If you spot any of these signs of neglect or abuse, act quickly. You may want to contact an attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse and can advise you of your legal options.

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