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The Empire State gets tougher.

New York Gov. George Pataki's Nursing Home Quality Improvement Act aims to improve nursing home care through tougher controls, increased fines, additional surveyors, and a team of auditors to search for Medicaid fraud.

In presenting his plan, Pataki said, "This legislation will help ensure that nursing home residents get the best care, along with the respect and dignity they deserve." The act will establish background checks, increase fines to $5,000 per violation and to $10,000 for repeat offenses, give the state health department the authority to replace bad nursing-home operators without going through the courts, establish a central nursing home hot line, and hire an additional 10 new inspectors plus 25 new auditors for a Medicaid Fraud Strike Force.

State health departments are under tremendous pressure from HCFA to cite more deficiencies. States that have low numbers of survey deficiencies are being targeted as not doing a thorough enough job when, in fact, the low numbers in New York are because the state has had a very rigorous survey process for 25 years or more. Regardless of how many inspectors the state hires, their effectiveness is dependent on their training and the survey process itself. "I don't accept, for a minute, that the survey process is an adequate measure of the quality of care," comments Carl Young, president of the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (NYAHSA).

Pataki's statement referred to nursing homes as having record profits during the past five years. However, Young points out that 48 percent of not-for-profits lost money in 1999 and, as a sector, did even worse in 2000. Young feels the governor is getting some very bad advice from somewhere. There is little objection to the hot line or the background checks, even though the latter would be costly, but the fine increases will cut into the money available to improve care in many facilities. The authority given to the state health department eliminates the constitutional right of due process. But what rankled Young the most was the tone of the governor's statement. He feels it doesn't accurately reflect the high level of care that exists in New York's nursing homes.
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Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Date:Mar 1, 2001
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