Feds Announce More Aggressive Enforcement of Poor Performing Nursing Homes

October 25, 2022Articles

Feds Announce More Aggressive Enforcement of Poor Performing Nursing Homes

In February of 2022, during his State of the Union Address, President Biden announced an action plan to improve the safety and quality of care in the nation’s nursing homes.[i] On October 21, 2022, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new requirements to help with oversight of facilities selected to the Special Focus Facilities (SFF) Program.[ii]

The SFF Program was created to help and oversee the poorest performing nursing homes in the country and improve nursing homes that have a history of noncompliance.  The goal is to improve safety and quality of care. The facilities selected for the SFF Program must be inspected no less than once every six months and if severe enforcement is needed, it is at the discretion of the state surveyors. The main objective for the SFF Program is for facilities to show exponential improvement, graduate from the program, and then maintain compliance and better quality of care and safety.

The new CMS requirements, outlined below, are aimed at facilities that continuously fail to improve and remain in the SFF Program for a prolonged period of time. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra stated, “Let us be clear: we are cracking down on enforcement of our nation’s poorest-performing nursing homes. As President Biden directed, we are increasing scrutiny and taking aggressive action to ensure everyone living in nursing homes gets the high-quality care they deserve. We are demanding better because our seniors deserve better.”

CMS announced the following revisions to the SFF Program:

  • Effective immediately, CMS will use escalating penalties for violations for deficiencies cited at the same level in subsequent surveys. This can include possible discretionary termination from Medicare and/or Medicaid funding for facilities that are cited with immediate jeopardy deficiencies on any two surveys while participating the in the SFF Program.
  • CMS will consider facilities’ efforts to improve when considering discretionary termination from Medicare and/or Medicaid programs.
  • CMS will impose more severe escalating enforcement remedies for SFF Program facilities for noncompliance and no effort to improve performance.
  • Increased requirements that nursing homes in the SFF Program must meet to graduate from the SFF Program.
  • For three years after graduation from the SFF Program, CMS will ensure nursing homes consistently maintain compliance with safety requirements by continuing to closely monitor these facilities. 
  • CMS is offering more support resources to facilities selected for the SFF Program.

Additionally, the Biden administration released a fact sheet with the steps they are taking to in improve the quality of nursing homes. [iii] Some of the steps mentioned include more resources to support union jobs in nursing home care, establishing minimum staffing requirements, incentivizing quality performance through Medicare and Medicaid funding, and enhanced efforts to prevent fraud and abuse.

Should you have questions about the recent revisions to the SFF Program or its expectations, please contact your Dinsmore Attorney.

[i] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/02/28/fact-sheet-protecting-seniors-and-people-with-disabilities-by-improving-safety-and-quality-of-care-in-the-nations-nursing-homes/

[ii] https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-23-01-nh.pdf

[iii] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/10/21/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-announces-new-steps-to-improve-quality-of-nursing-homes/