United States: OIG Issues Stark Warning To Skilled Nursing Facilities: Potential Abuse Or Neglect Of Residents Receiving Emergency Room Services Is Being Underreported To Law Enforcement

Introduction

On August 24, 2017, the Office of Inspector General ("OIG") of the Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") issued an "Early Alert" that disclosed the preliminary results of its ongoing review of abuse of Medicare beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities.  Specifically, OIG determined: (i) that a significant number of incidents of potential abuse or neglect of nursing facility residents receiving emergency care has not been reported to law enforcement as required under the Elder Justice Act; and (ii) that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ("CMS") lacked adequate procedures to ensure proper reporting.  The Early Alert, which includes a list of suggestions for immediate remedial action to be taken by CMS, highlights the increased scrutiny that nursing facilities will face for failing to comply with the Elder Justice Act's reporting obligations, and points to proactive measures nursing facilities can take, now, to mitigate risk of any enforcement action. 

Requirements to Report Abuse or Neglect of Residents of Skilled Nursing Facilities

The "Elder Justice Act," adopted with the passage of the Affordable Care Act ("ACA") effective March 23, 2011 (see 42 U.S.C. § 1320b-25), requires "covered individuals" -- including an owner, operator, employee or agent, of a long term care facility -- to [A] report to HHS (or the State Survey Agency) and one or more law enforcement entities any reasonable suspicion of a "crime" against any individual who is a resident of the facility; and [B] make such report within two hours after forming the suspicion that the resident suffered serious bodily injury, or within 24 hours if there is no serious bodily injury. 

Failure to make the required reports could result in civil monetary penalties of up to $300,000 and exclusion from participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  Id.  Although the law went into effect in 2011, the corresponding regulations requiring skilled nursing facilities to develop and implement conforming policies and procedures do not go into effect until November 28, 2017.  See 42 C.F.R. § 483.12(b).

Separately, skilled nursing facilities must also report resident abuse, neglect, mistreatment, injuries of unknown origin, and misappropriation of resident property to the administrator of the facility and the State Survey Agency.  See 42 C.F.R. § 483.12(c); see also N.Y. Public Health Law § 2803-d and 10 N.Y.C.R.R. § 81.1 et seq.

OIG's Audit

Although its review of skilled nursing facility abuse reporting is not yet complete, OIG issued its preliminary audit results through the Early Alert because of the "importance of detecting and combating elder abuse."

Audit Methodology and Findings:  To conduct this audit, OIG reviewed hospital emergency room records of 134 residents of skilled nursing facilities transferred to the hospital, in which the emergency room staff assigned one of 12 primary diagnoses codes utilized for Medicare reimbursement claims that indicate potential abuse or neglect (e.g., adult sexual abuse, adult physical abuse, adult maltreatment).  OIG also reviewed the State Survey Agency records for each of the relevant skilled nursing facilities.  Based on these records, OIG found that, for 28% of these cases, there was no evidence that the underlying incident had been reported to law enforcement.  Notably, OIG assumed that every emergency room visit associated with one of the 12 "abuse" diagnostic codes was an incident reportable under the Elder Justice Act.  OIG, however, did not independently verify whether there was actual abuse or neglect of these individuals. 

Based on its findings, OIG concluded that CMS lacks procedures to enforce the Elder Justice Act, and specifically to ensure that incidents of abuse or neglect of nursing facility residents are being properly reported to law enforcement.  In particular, OIG noted that CMS does not "match" hospital Medicare claims for emergency room services with claims for nursing home reimbursement, to identify instances of potential abuse or neglect.

CMS acknowledged that it has not identified any instances in which a covered individual failed to make a report to law enforcement.  In its defense, CMS informed OIG that it has not taken any enforcement action yet because HHS has not yet delegated enforcement authority to CMS.  Furthermore, CMS stated that it has recently updated the State Operations Manual, used by the State Survey Agencies, to reference the applicable Elder Justice Act regulations, with an effective date of November 28, 2017. 

OIG's Recommendations to CMS

In the Early Alert, OIG provided the following "suggestions" for CMS to take immediately:

  • Implement procedures to compare hospital Medicare claims for emergency room treatment with nursing home claims to identify incidents of potential abuse or neglect and to periodically provide the details of this analysis to the State Survey Agencies for further investigation of compliance with Elder Justice Act reporting obligations;
  • Continue to work with HHS to secure the authority to impose the civil monetary penalties and exclusion of providers pursuant to the Elder Justice Act;
  • Promulgate additional regulations, if necessary, to impose penalties for non-compliance with the reporting requirements;
  • Impose penalties when appropriate; and
  • Direct State Survey Agencies to refer suspected violations of the reporting obligations to CMS for appropriate action.

Lessons for Skilled Nursing Facilities

  • With the issuance of the Early Alert, the mandate to report to law enforcement, suspected crimes against residents, including abuse and neglect, will continue to be a compliance focus of OIG and will likely be an enforcement priority for CMS going forward. Nursing facilities need to revisit and, to the extent they have not done so already, update their policies and procedures to comply with the reporting obligations contained in the Elder Justice Act -- before the applicable regulations go into effect on November 28, 2017.
  • OIG focused its attention on skilled nursing facility residents receiving emergency room services. Skilled nursing facilities should likewise be particularly focused on resident transfers for emergency care for potential incident reporting pursuant to the Elder Justice Act.
  • OIG equated any emergency room visit associated with one of the 12 "abuse" diagnosis codes to be reportable under the Elder Justice Act. However, at the time of an emergency room transfer, nursing facilities in some cases may not have identified evidence of potential abuse of a criminal nature, and would not have the benefit of the emergency room physicians' evaluation when the resident arrives at the hospital.  As a matter of course, skilled nursing facilities should consider requesting records of the emergency room diagnoses and, whenever one of the 12 codes has been assigned, presume that the incident should be reported to law enforcement if it has not been already, unless the evidence clearly indicates the coding is mistaken and no abuse took place. 

Bottom Line:  Nursing facilities -- and "covered individuals" -- that fail to heed OIG's alarm may be putting themselves in regulatory jeopardy.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Emails

From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.