Nessel urges protections for nursing home facility residents

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who launched an aggressive Elder Abuse Task Force earlier this year, is challenging a proposed federal rule that would weaken nursing home regulations and potentially threaten the health and safety of tens of thousands of Michigan residents living in nursing homes.

Nessel joined five other attorneys general to file a comment letter this week urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to avoid watering down protections for vulnerable residents of skilled nursing care facilities, saying the proposed rule would “place too great an interest on minimizing facilities’ obligations” to protect their residents.

“This proposal takes away the basic checks and balances that were put in place to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all residents in the care of nursing home facilities throughout our country,” Nessel said. “With these proposed rules, the federal government would be effectively giving nursing home facilities a free pass to duck existing obligations and make it harder to detect the abuse, neglect and exploitation of our most vulnerable residents.”

The proposed rule change falls short on several levels, including:

• Weakening the qualifications and standards set for a director of food and nutrition services regardless of the medically ordered specialty diets many of the elderly require.
• Changing the grievance process to one that allows nursing homes to decide whether a concern is a grievance or simply “feedback,” and gives more power to the facility in how they are investigated.
• Increasing the likelihood that chemical restraints would be used for convenience by eliminating the requirement that a physician must see a patient to extend as-needed antipsychotic medications.
• Reducing safety assessments from once per year to every two years, which increases the chance of health and safety issues going unnoticed for a significantly longer period of time.

“The bottom line is that these proposed rules do not improve the lives of vulnerable residents; they improve the lives of business executives and the bottom lines of nursing home businesses across Michigan and the nation. They lessen a facility’s accountability to its residents, their families and the state, and the rules in no way improve or address the abuse and neglect that we know exists in these facilities,” Nessel added.

The attorneys general provide multiple recommendations in their comments to ultimately “strike the right balance by prioritizing residents’ needs and protections without instituting unnecessary obligations for long term care facilities.”

Nessel launched the Elder Abuse Task Force in March to combat the abuse, neglect and exploitation of Michigan's most vulnerable population, including those in nursing home facilities.   

Michigan joins the attorneys general of Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New York and Oregon in filing this comment letter.

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