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Trump Administration Lowering Fines against Nursing Home for Serious Violations

By Jack H. FarnbauchOctober 1, 2018

The Trump administration is scaling back on the use of fines against nursing homes that injure or place patients in danger from poor medical care. This is part of the Trump administration’s overall relaxation of safety regulations for the medical community. Lobbyists for the nursing home industry are celebrating. Nursing home residents and their families are angry and scared. Federal regulations grew under the Obama administration by increasing fines and other penalties for substandard care in nursing homes. The Trump administration is quickly reversing these regulations and putting the nation’s 1.5 million nursing home residents back in jeopardy of abuse and medical malpractice. An article in the Des Moines Register outlines how nursing home officials are celebrating the arrival of the Trump administration (specifically in Iowa). Iowa is one of the worst offenders of substandard nursing home care and paid a record $4.6 million in federal fines in 2016. But now the nursing home industry is breathing a sigh of relief. 

A Des Moines Register review of the penalties imposed against Iowa nursing homes shows that federal fines increased dramatically from 2012 through 2016, then plummeted immediately after Donald Trump took office as president in January 2017. In 2017, the first year of the Trump administration, federal fines against Iowa homes dropped by half, to $2.3 million. While the number of violations that triggered fines had increased slightly, the penalties, on average, were half what they were in 2016.

The Trump administration characterizes its efforts on oversight as long-overdue “reform” that will lighten the regulatory burden on homes, lessen the penalties they face for quality-of-care violations and lead to improved care. The change in regulations and fines ultimately came from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revising the assessment tools they use to calculate fines against care facilities. CMS now refers to the nursing homes that it oversees as “customers” or “partners,” and says it will be “exploring improving care through other remedies” rather than fines and penalties.

But earlier this year, 12 U.S. senators — all Democrats or Independents — formally complained to CMS that the agency appeared “intent on rolling back or delaying enforcement of regulations that are meant to keep nursing homes safe for the patients they serve.” This struggle between the two sides is still ongoing and will continue on for the foreseeable future.

You can read more here.