The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced last Friday that it’s bolstering scrutiny for chronically under-performing nursing homes through revisions of its Special Focus Facility Program. Nursing home negligence attorneys share that the Special Focus Facility Program is designed to stimulate improvements in nursing homes identified as having a history of serious quality issues through additional inspections, monitoring and enforcement actions. CMS states that it will strengthen the requirements that need to be achieved for a facility to complete the program, increase the enforcement actions such as civil monetary payments and payment denials, and lengthen the period that facilities are monitored. Nursing home negligence attorneys believe that these changes will increase the accountability for nursing home operators and owners that do not meet care standards for their residents.
Nursing home regulators, critics, and nursing home negligence attorneys have historically criticized that underperforming facilities have been known to ping-pong on and off the Special Facilities Program in the past. They allege that this back and forth demonstrates that no true sustained changes were implemented in these facilities. Many hope that the newly implemented changes to the program will help crack down on nursing homes that understaff and provide inadequate care. Currently, 88 nursing homes nationwide are enrolled in the Special Focus Facility (SFF) Program. An additional 400 facilities are not far behind, landing on the SFF candidate list.
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, called for increased oversight of the programs through a letter to CMS in May 2022. The Committee’s investigation found that 20% of the nursing homes in the Special Focus Facility (SFF) program had not been surveyed within the intervals established for the program. The senator also demanded program expansions, noting that the 400 nursing homes on the candidate list receive no additional monitoring due to lacking government resources. The revisions announced today do not appear to expand the program to include additional facilities into the SFF program.
CMS Announced the following revisions to the Special Focus Facility (SFF) program to improve monitoring of these underperforming facilities.
- Toughen the criteria for program completion to demand systemic quality improvements
- Quicker terminations from federal funding for facilities that do not demonstrate quality improvements.
- Increase enforcement through remedies (such as fines) that are both more severe and escalating
- Extend the monitoring period and take enforcement actions against nursing homes if performance declines after graduation from the SFF Program
Identifying Poor Quality Nursing Homes
Nursing home negligence attorneys want the public to understand how to identify SFF program facilities on the Care Compare website. Facilities in the SFF program will not display a star ranking. Instead, these facilities are identified with an icon and text that indicates their participation in the SFF program. Consumers should take great caution in closely evaluating a SFF facility prior to deciding to seek care at one of these chronically underperforming facilities.
What Facilities are Currently on the SFF List in Pennsylvania?
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services update a list to notify the public of nursing homes that have been identified for a history of serious quality issues that are participants of the Special Focus Facilities program to stimulate care quality improvements. Nursing home negligence attorneys recommend that consumers consult this list when researching placement options for their loved one.
The following table outlines the SFF facilities list for Pennsylvania as of September 28, 2022. This list is regularly updated. Facilities that demonstrate significant improvements during inspections may graduate from the SFF program, and new facilities may be added.
How Can I Use This Information?
If you are considering admission to a nursing home, especially, one on this list, you should consider taking the following steps:
- Visit the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Nursing Home Compare website to review the facility’s star ratings, inspection results, and quality measures.
- Tour the nursing home. Be sure to speak with staff, residents, physicians, and other family members.
- Call the Pennsylvania Department of Health to find out more information about the nursing home.
- If the nursing home is identified as a Special Focus Facility program participant, review the length of time that the nursing home has been on the list. Take special note if the nursing home has been on the list for 18 months or longer, or if the facility is ending their participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
- Contact your local Ombudsman or Area of Aging to find out more about the nursing home.
My Loved One Has Suffered Nursing Home Abuse or Negligence. What Should I Do?
If your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse or neglect, nursing home negligence lawyers recommend taking the following actions:
- Contact local authorities if a crime, such as physical or sexual assault, has been committed against a nursing home resident.
- Call the Pennsylvania Department of Aging 24-Hour Elder Abuse Hotline
- File a Complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. This can be done via email or phone.
- Notify the nursing home administrator a demand an immediate investigation of the suspected or alleged abuse
- Contact the nursing home negligence attorneys at the Wieand Law Firm, LLC to secure representation for your loved one’s injuries.
Call the Wieand Law Firm, LLC Today
Contact nursing home negligence lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm, LLC if your loved one suffered a preventable injury at a nursing home or assisted living facility. Nursing homes must provide a standard of care for their residents. When these care standards are not met, our nursing home abuse lawyers can hold facilities liable for preventable injuries such as falls, pressure ulcers and avoidable elopements. Call 215-666-7777 to speak directly to an attorney for a free case review and evaluation.