The New York Times reported on January 2, 2018, that according to financial disclosures to Medicare, nursing home contracts with related companies accounted for $11 billion of nursing home spending in 2015. According to the report, this amounts to a tenth of nursing home costs. The basis of the Times report was an analysis undertaken by Kaiser Health News. The Times article, which focused on care problems encountered by a family at a New York nursing home, was critical of related-company arrangements, saying that they allow nursing home owners to arrange contracts where the nursing homes pay more than they might in a competitive market. Further, the article said, owners can “siphon off” profits that are not recorded on the nursing home’s books. The Times report stated that the Kaiser Health News analysis found that nursing homes doing business with related companies (1) employ, on average, 8 percent fewer nurses and aides; (2) were 9 percent more likely to have hurt residents or immediate jeopardy findings; (3) had 53 substantiated complaints for every 1,000 beds, compared with 32 per 1,000 beds where no related party arrangements were in place; and (4) were fined 22 percent more often for serious health violations and penalties at an average of $24,441, a rate 7 percent higher than homes with no related-party arrangements. The Kaiser analysis also found that for-profit nursing homes use related company arrangements more frequently than nonprofit corporations.
CMS has released the final version of a broad-based proposed rule update that will take effect November 28, 2016. One of the most notable provisions is a prohibition on including a mandatory arbitration provision in a nursing home admission agreement. Long a bone of contention, with strong advocacy efforts on each side of the question of whether such mandatory clauses should be allowed, it remains to be seen whether the rule will be challenged in court. Those against mandatory arbitration say it deprives individuals of their day in court; those in favor say there are benefits, including less expensive and quicker resolution of claims.
Only admissions agreements of future residents will be affected by the new rule. Providers should note too that arbitration clauses are not banned altogether. In a blog post on September 28, 2016, Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt stated “[f]acilities and residents will still be able to use arbitration on a voluntary basis at the time a dispute arises.” He went on to say that “[e]ven then, these agreements will need to be clearly explained to residents, including the understanding that these arbitration agreements are voluntary, and that these agreements should not prevent or discourage residents and families from talking to authorities about quality of care concerns.”
The new rule includes a number of other new or modified provisions, which according to CMS were designed to set higher standards for quality and safety in long-term care facilities and protect and empower residents, with a focus on preventing abuse and neglect in facilities.
The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) has published its annual Work Plan for Fiscal Year 2016. The Work Plan summarizes new and ongoing reviews and activities that OIG plans to pursue with respect to federal health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, during the current fiscal year and beyond. Work Plan agenda items for Nursing Homes, Home Health and Hospice are summarized below. Continue reading “OIG Issues Annual Work Plan/Long-Term Care Provider Initiatives Included”