Verma: CMS ‘Doubling Down’ on Nursing Home Safety Oversight

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this week issued yet another new proposal aimed at overhauling federal oversight of nursing homes, and the agency’s chief reaffirmed her dedication to the issue.

“The Trump administration is empowering residents and their caregivers with information about nursing home safety and quality, and we’re doubling down on our efforts to keep residents safe,” CMS administrator Seema Verma wrote in an op-ed piece in the Tampa Bay Times, published late Thursday.

The release of the essay coincided with a double-barreled announcement from CMS on nursing home regulations: The agency finalized a rule formally overturning an Obama-era ban on using arbitration agreements, while still retaining several protections for residents. In the same announcement, CMS floated a sweeping proposed rule that would delay certain aspects of the final updates to the Requirements of Participation, while also working to reduce paperwork and reporting burdens for operators.

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“Just today, CMS published a rule that streamlines and simplifies many prescriptive regulations that have consumed nursing homes’ precious time and resources,” Verma wrote in the Tampa Bay Times. “Those resources — we estimate savings of over $600 million in administrative costs — can now be prioritized toward caring for residents.”

But the administrator emphasized that the agency remains interested in beefing up its enforcement efforts in comments that echoed a statement from CMS chief medical officer Kate Goodrich last month.

“CMS’s work isn’t done. In fact, we’re just getting started,” Goodrich said during a June conference call with reporters.

Verma pledged continued updates to the five-star rating system for SNFs on the consumer-focused Nursing Home Compare website, including more information about a building’s history of abuse and neglect claims. In addition, the agency announced the posting of the first public list of Special Focus Facility candidates, a move prompted by the June release of the previously unreleased document by a pair of U.S. senators.

Verma also used the platform to describe existing CMS oversight efforts, including stricter standards for state-level inspectors, tighter rules for staffing levels, and the inclusion of new quality measures in the five-star system.

Finally, Verma urged lawmakers in Congress to pass the president’s proposed 2020 budget in order to boost funding for inspections, noting that complaints have increased by 20% since 2013 — while the inspection budget has remained stagnant since 2015.

“We know Congress shares our desire for high-quality, safe nursing homes, so we hope it will give us the tools we need,” Verma wrote.

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