White House Cracking Down on Nursing Home Care After USA Today Report

Rido / shutterstock.com

One of the positive things to come from the pandemic is an investigation done by USA Today into nursing home care. Health policy advisers to President Joe Biden cited the probe that was done during the pandemic as evidence of an industry plagued by poor employee actions as well as profiteering. The whole industry seems to be in need of reform.

The report from the media giant revealed that residents at a single chain in the Midwest that has 115 campuses died of COVID-19 at double the national average of other nursing homes. Now, that chain is being forced to file weekly reports with the federal government. When the chain of nursing homes was reported by USA Today, they admitted to over-reporting hundreds of deaths at the height of the pandemic.

The for-profit company in question is Trilogy, and they are backed by a real estate investment trust. The health care investment company had been able to exist under the radar of federal regulators responsible for the nation’s nursing homes.

Now, the White House is planning to focus a spotlight on how Wall Street is profiting from taxpayer-funded health care for both the elderly and people with disabilities.

The Biden administration is looking to create greater financial transparency with several new proposals. Biden revealed his plan in his State of the Union speech on March 1st. The president wants to see more reporting on for-profit nursing homeownership, and a greater database that can track operators of these homes across state lines. The president is also calling for more significant fines for violations of the code.

The Trilogy investment company is based in Southern California, but the nursing homes are in four Midwestern states including Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan. They stayed under the radar federally because the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) focused on individual homes and didn’t look at the chains during the pandemic.

Jonathan Blum, the principal deputy administrator at CMS, said that they are planning to improve. One official from the Biden administration spoke on the condition of anonymity. He expressed concern that some nursing home operators may be taking money from the federally funded homes at the expense of the care for patients. They told the media that work is being done through the administration’s departments, but that other changes may require Congress to pass legislation.

President Biden is asking for a $500 million increase in CMS funding to build up nursing home inspections. He also plans to raise the cap on penalties for poor performances in facilities. It is now at $21,000 and he wants it to be $1,000,000. Both of these will need to have legislation from Congress.

Those who advocate for nursing homes are praising Biden’s focus, but for-profit and nonprofit nursing home lobby groups are opposing the plans. They report that Medicaid funding doesn’t even fully reimburse nursing home care.

Mark Parkinson, the president of the American Health Care Association, has called for a meeting with President Biden and Health and Human Services director Xavier Becerra. He has a problem with the president’s understanding of the situation. He said the president’s speech “demoralized an already beaten down sector” and disregards “the heroic sacrifices” of nursing staff.

Parkinson also said that the industry was “shocked” by the reports regarding nursing homes and the COVID-19 pandemic. He took issue with the blame being put on nursing home caregivers.

Officials in the administration said that even though the nursing home industry is fearful about the changes taking place, they are more concerned about minimum standards for care.