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Making Elder Abuse Great Again

The Trump administration reportedly is taking it easy on nursing homes that have been cited for patient care violations or mistreatment, a significant change in policy that resulted in some pretty stiff fines under the Obama administration.

According to a report published by The New York Times, the policy change follows a request by Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association (AHCA), who argued that inspectors were too focused on finding wrongdoings at nursing homes instead of assisting the facilities.

“It is critical that we have relief,” Parkinson wrote in a letter to Donald Trump, then president-elect, in December 2016. Apparently it struck a chord with Trump, who is so proud of his efforts to kill off federal regulations, regardless of whether or not they are actually needed.

The Times reported that nearly 6,500 nursing homes have received at least one citation for a serious violation since 2013, with about two-thirds of those fined by Medicare.

However, under the new rules that have gradually been implemented this year, regulators are discouraged from fining nursing homes in some cases, while fines in other instances may be decreased.

Dr. Kate Goodrich, director of clinical standards and quality at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), contended that previous policy interfered with nursing homes' ability to give people the best service.

“Rather than spending quality time with their patients, the providers are spending time complying with regulations that get in the way of caring for their patients and doesn’t increase the quality of care they provide,” Goodrich said.

Oh yes, of course, Dr. Goodrich. Clearly, those front office administrators who would have to deal with the fines would much rather be visiting with and caring for Alzheimer's patients in their rooms. How misguided to force them to respond to charges of mistreatment and handle all of the paperwork required involved in paying the fines. After all, what are a few bed sores or smacks by irritated workers?

To the industry's credit, it has been working hard through AHCA to improve quality of care and has reported significant progress. But keep in mind, that initiative was launched during the Obama administration when the tougher regulations were in place. Now that Trump has eased up, will the industry be quite so aggressive in continuing its quality improvement efforts?

For the sake of millions of vulnerable nursing home patients across the country, let's hope so.

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