Could Easing Nursing Home Penalties Allow Elder Abuse?

The Trump administration is taking steps to roll back penalties on nursing homes violating health and safety rules. The policy shift alarms Minnesota officials and advocates for the elderly who say it could undercut moves to crack down on violence and criminal abuse in senior homes.

The Trump administration is taking steps to roll back penalties on nursing homes violating health and safety rules. The policy shift alarms state officials and advocates for the elderly who say it could undercut Minnesota’s moves to crack down on violence and criminal abuse in senior homes, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has directed its regional offices to ratchet back some Obama-era enforcement practices that the nursing home industry has found most onerous. The new directives are likely to reduce the number and severity of monetary penalties, even for violations that lead to serious injury or death. “This absolutely takes us down the wrong path,” said Mary Jo George of the AARP, chairwoman of a new state work group on elder abuse. “It will make our work more challenging at a time when we are trying to take swifter action against facilities that are harming residents.”

The policy shift is a major victory for the nursing home industry, which has long denounced federal fines as inconsistent and burdensome. In Minnesota, federal fines against the state’s 380 nursing homes have totaled $2.1 million over five years. They more than tripled in the final years of the Obama administration. Advocates for elderly residents worry that, without daily penalties for recurring violations, nursing homes will have less incentive to correct serious deficiencies. The federal move comes as Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged tougher action against elder abuse and has promised improvements to the state’s troubled system for investigating allegations of maltreatment in senior homes. A five-part Star Tribune series in November chronicled multiple breakdowns in the state’s handling of elder abuse cases.

from https://thecrimereport.org