The Center for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) is the component of the Federal Government’s Department of Health and Human Services that oversees the Medicare and Medicaid programs. 

Medicaid and Medicare dollars are used to cover nursing home care and services for the elderly and disabled. State governments oversee the licensing of nursing homes. In addition, State have a contract with CMS to monitor those nursing homes that want to be eligible to provider care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Congress established minimum requirements for nursing homes that want to provide services under Medicare and Medicaid. These requirements are broadly outlined in the Social Security Act (the Act). The Act also entrusts the Secretary of Health and Human Services (DHHS) with CMS, a DHHS Agency, is also charged with the responsibility of working out details of the law and how it will be implemented, which it does by writing regulations and manuals.

CMS contracts with each State to conduct onsite inspections that determine whether its nursing homes meet the minimum Medicare and Medicaid quality and performance standards. The State conducts inspections of each nursing home that participates in Medicare and/or Medicaid about once a year.  The State also investigates complaints about nursing home care.

During the nursing home inspection, the State looks at many aspects of quality. The inspection team observes resident care processes, staff/resident interaction, and environment. Using an established protocol of residential rights, the team interview a sample of residents and family members bout their life within the nursing home, and interview caregivers and administrative staff. 

Depending on the nature of the problem, the law permits CMS to take a variety of actions; for example, CMS may fine the nursing home, deny payment to the nursing home, assign a temporary manager, or install a State monitor. CMS considers the extent of harm caused by the failure to meet requirements when it taken an enforcement action. If the nursing home does not correct its problems, CMS terminates its agreement with the nursing home. As a result, the nursing home is no longer certified to provide care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Any beneficiary residing in the home at the time of the termination are transferred to certified facilities.

States that set high staffing standards for elder care in nursing homes are the only ones that come close to having enough staff nurses to prevent serious safety violations, according to a new study by a professor in the UCSF School of Nursing.

The majority of the nation’s elderly and disabled in nursing homes remain in situations where staffing is well below national recommendations for safe care, the study found. While no states have ideal nursing levels, those states with higher Medicaid reimbursements or higher mandated nursing levels have come closer to meeting the recommendations, according to the analysis published in the June issue of the journal "Health Services Research."

The study’s initial objective was to examine the relationship between Medicaid reimbursement rates, which many states have cut under their cost-containment efforts, and nurse staffing levels in US nursing homes, according to Charlene Harrington, PhD, RN, UCSF professor of sociology and nursing and lead author of the report.

She said previous studies have shown a direct correlation between staffing levels and higher Medicaid reimbursement for nursing homes, but this is the first to show that states with higher mandated staffing standards had substantially higher staffing as well.

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State and federal officials announced today a $550,000 settlement in a fraudulent medical billing case against Green Valley Pavilion of Smyrna.

Members of the Delaware Attorney General’s Office medicaid fraud control unit and the U.S. Attorney’s Office determined that some of Green Valley’s employees were altering patient charts in order to get more money from the Delaware Medicaid Program.

Because the investigation showed that none of the nurses personally profited from the scheme, state and federal prosecutors pursued Green Valley for restitution due to Medicaid. After months of negotiations, Green Valley agreed to pay more than a half million dollars.

“Caregivers have been sharply reminded of their responsibilities to their patients, and nursing home owners are on notice that they will be held responsible for the acts of their employees,” said Deputy Attorney General Dan MIller, the lead prosecutor in the case. “We have already seen a drop in the amount of questionable reimbursement requests submitted to the Medicaid program.”

See article here

I ran across a sad but interesting article discussing the difficulties in choosing the right nursing home for a loved one.

The author was looking for the right place for his wife who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. He used the federal database (the Nursing Home Compare Database) that is supposed to help in choosing a nursing home for our loved one. This can be found at:

He visited dozen facilities, making a careful inspection of each, before finally deciding on one that seemed just right.  Afterwards he realized, after reading an editorial in the Boston Globe, that he could easily have made a really bad choice.

The Boston Globe April 27 piece entitled, “Enforce Quality Care for Elders,” the Globe points out that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is failing in its duty to make sure that nursing homes correct their shortcomings and then continue to meet quality standards. That is the conclusion of an April 23 report Congress mandated from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Here’s a quote from that report, referring to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS):

In general, the effectiveness of CMS’s management of nursing home enforcement is hampered by the overall complexity of its immediate sanctions policy, intended to deter repeated noncompliance, and by its fragmented data systems and incomplete national reporting capabilities.”

You’ll find this report at:

According to the Globe, the U.S. has more than 16,000 nursing homes, caring on an average day for about 1.5 million patients. Another report that Congress mandated dated Feb. 21, 2002 — more than five years ago — begins: “HHS Nursing Home Compare Website Has Major Flaws.”

This report said: “The report finds that ‘Nursing Home Compare’ has major flaws that can mislead families seeking to find a safe nursing home.”

Here’s what they’re hiding from consumers: the data on ‘Nursing Home Compare’ does not include tens of thousands of recent violations of federal health standards, including nearly 60 percent of the violations involving death or serious injury. 

Tthe Nursing Home Compare Web site is being used by millions of familiest. The Web site receives approximately 100,000 visits a month and is one of the most popular destinations for individuals who view the Medicare homepage. HHS says, “the most important information on this site is the searchable database that allows the public to determine the compliance status of virtually any nursing home in the United States.”

Despite this talk of compliance, the report shows that the HHS Web site in fact excludes information on many documented health violations in these nursing homes. Information is missing because Nursing Home Compare does not include the results of complaint investigations conducted by state inspectors.

You can read the whole thing. Just search on: “Nursing Home Compare Website Has Major Flaws.”

The former owner of several nursing homes has been sentenced to 42 months of imprisonment after being convicted of health care fraud and money laundering.  Rocky Lemon pled guilty on both charges.

In addition to the prison term the owner must serve three years of supervised release after completing his imprisonment and pay more than $4 million in restitution to Medicare and Medicaid. 

From 1997 to April 2001, Lemon owned and operated more than 50 nursing homes through TLC Healthcare Inc.

Lemon admitted that he executed a scheme to defraud the Medicare Program and the Texas Medicaid Program by diverting Medicare and Medicaid money to his own personal use and benefit.

Lemon used some of that Medicare and Medicaid money to finance his purchase of nursing homes, then sold some of the nursing homes for profit and funneled a portion of the net proceeds into his personal bank and brokerage accounts.

See article here

 U.S. Medicare Monday proposed a $690 million increase in payments to nursing homes. The 3.3-percent increase would go to nursing facilities that provide skilled nursing and rehabilitation care to Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Under the new payment schedule, called the skilled nursing facility prospective payment system, the daily rate for room, board, medical care and other expenses would be increased. Current payments are based on a 1997 market basket, but the proposal would update rates using a 2004 market basket.

Hopefully, this increase will lead to more staff who are better trained.


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WASHINGTON, DC – National Healthcare Corporation (NHC) will pay the United States $27 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that the company submitted falsely inflated reports to Medicare, the Justice Department announced today. The government alleged that beginning in 1991 the company submitted nursing home cost reports that falsely claimed that facility staff members spent more time caring for Medicare patients than they actually did in order to collect additional money from the federal health care program.

The complaint against NHC alleges that the company submitted cost reports that included false claims for reimbursement. NHC, headquartered in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, owns, leases or provides services to 105 nursing homes nationwide.

"Today’s settlement by the Justice Department demonstrates the government’s determination to combat health care fraud by providers," said David W. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.

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