TRENTON – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Senator Fred Madden that would establish additional requirements for the Department of Health to assess sanctions and impose penalties on nursing homes repeatedly in violation of State and federal codes, while also upgrading reporting requirements for nursing homes throughout New Jersey.
The bill, A-4478/ S-2759, directs the DOH to impose a system of scaling actions and penalties for those facilities found to be in repeat violation. Specifically, a nursing home cited for the same or substantially similar F-level deficiency or higher, as outlined in the federal CMS guidance, at any point over a three-year period would be subject to a penalty that would be more severe than the penalty imposed for the previous violation.
“The deaths and devastation inside our nursing homes that we witnessed during the early deadly days of the coronavirus pandemic should be a wake-up call to all of us,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “Clearly, our nursing homes were unprepared for the numbers of infection rates that occurred, and their staffs were overwhelmed and in some cases left unprotected.”
“Going forward, we must make sure nursing homes and those who run them are held accountable, and following strict protocols beforehand, so that we never again see a tragedy like this repeat itself,” added Senator Vitale.
The bill would also require nursing homes to report additional financial information and quality metrics. Specifically, nursing homes would be required to post annual owner-certified financial statements, or Form 990s, as applicable, along with their most recent cost reports submitted to CMS on their websites. Further, nursing homes would be required to participate in the National Health Care Safety Network’s Long-term Care Facility survey component which includes reporting information monthly and annually on certain healthcare-associated infections and prevention process measures.
Under the bill, the Department of Health would be required to post links to this and other information reported by the nursing homes in a consumer friendly format. Such information would be provided by facility and updated on a regular basis.
“We need more data on financial operations from these facilities, as well as more transparency through documents that will reveal past failings and inconsistencies. These are straightforward steps we can take so as to help mitigate the sort of haphazard, disastrous response to an emergency health event like we saw in the spring of 2021,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester).
In addition, the bill would require DOH to undertake a review of reporting requirements for nursing homes and also take substantive steps to standardize and consolidate reporting requirements for the purpose of reducing the administrative demand on the homes, while also improving the utility of the reported data, and the ability to share the data across systems.
The bill cleared the Senate by a vote of 39-0.