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Billy Cunningham
Billy Cunningham
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Nursing Home Tranparency and Improvement Act Reintroduced

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While Congress is debating health care reforms, two Senators, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI), have reintroduced the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act. This bill would provide consumers with more information about individual nursing homes and their track record of care.

Yesterday, Grassley and Kohl released a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled "Medicare and Medicaid Participating Facilities: CMS Needs to Reexamine Its Approach for Oversight of Health Care Facilities." This report suggests that the survey and certification system is significantly underfunded relative to the scope of its oversight responsibilities, which have greatly expanded in recent years. The report found that the frequencies of surveys have dropped significantly to the point where some facilities have only been inspected once every ten years. The Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act seeks to bolster the federal government’s survey and certification system and give the government better tools for enforcing high quality standards, and encourage homes to improve on their own.

I love the term “Transparency” in this bill’s title. One of the provisions would require nursing homes to disclose information about all the principal business partners who play a role in the financing and management of the facility, so that the government can hold them accountable in the case of poor care or neglect. Not being able to get to the owners- the people and entities really controlling the care- has resulted in poor care This has become a real problem in not only proving who is responsible for the neglect or abuse but in being able to collect money to compensate the victims of that neglect or abuse. The bill would also create a national independent monitor pilot program to tackle tough quality and safety issues that must be addressed at the level of corporate management. This program hopefully will be able to put pressure in the boardrooms of the owners to provide the appropriate care.

As Senator Grassley said "Improving the quality of care in nursing homes is a constant challenge. More transparency, better enforcement and improved staff training are needed, and this legislation works to make changes in those areas and improve the quality of life of nursing home residents and to empower the family members and loved ones of those residents," Grassley said.