TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Senator Joe Cryan requiring the Department of Human Services to take certain actions, including issuing warnings and evaluating the need for greater sanctions against underperforming nursing homes that receive Medicaid funding, advanced out of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.
The issuance of warnings and possibly sanctions are part of recommendations outlined by the Office of the State Comptroller in the February 2022 report titled, “An Examination of the Lowest-Rated Long Term Care Facilities Participating in New Jersey’s Medicaid Program,” and part of a legislative package meant to improve overall performance and quality of care in nursing homes in the state.
The February Comptroller report identified 15 consistently underperforming facilities of the nearly 360 licensed facilities in the State. Nine of these facilities remained on the list of consistently underperforming facilities in the Comptroller’s latest update which was released in September 2022.
“New Jersey residents living in nursing homes, including Medicaid beneficiaries, represent some of our most vulnerable friends, neighbors and relatives. Protecting these individuals, and promoting the health and well-being of both residents and staff working in nursing homes should be near the top of priorities of our state and its public health services,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.
The bill, S-2892, would establish a system whereby nursing homes who received a one-star rating from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) receive a warning and a recommendation to improve quality of care. A one-star rating in two consecutive quarters could result in sanctions, while a one-star rating in three consecutive quarters could include more severe sanctions, and the possible removal of Medicaid enrollees from the facility.
In addition, facilities that receive a one-star rating in three consecutive quarters would be required to submit an improvement plan to the Department of Human Services and implement the plan over 18 months.
“Failures concerning quality of care in our nursing homes are just not acceptable,” said Senator Cryan (D-Union), Chair of the Military & Veterans Affairs Committee. “We must do all in our power to see to it that these, among our most at-risk citizens, are cared for properly and humanely, and that these facilities are maintained in a professional manner that protects both residents and employees. Anything less is an abdication of our duty and responsibility as a just and caring society.”
The bill was advanced out of committee by a vote of 6-1.
Four other bills were passed out of the Health Committee as part of a legislative package meant to improve overall performance, quality and oversight of care in nursing homes throughout the state. These include:
- S-2890 (Senator Vitale and Senator Sandra Cunningham), which would prohibit a person who leases or rents the land or a building to an owner or operator of a nursing home from increasing or entering into any agreement to increase the lease or rent payments by more than four percent annually.
- S-2891, (Senator Vitale and Senator Linda Greenstein), which expands the scope of the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman and appropriates $1 million. Specifically, the bill would provide that the office of the ombudsman would oversee all long-term care facility residents, not just the elderly.
- S-2893, (Senator Vitale) would require the procurement of management support and other services for certain nursing homes. Under the bill, if the DOH identifies a nursing home in substantial violation, or with a pattern and practice of habitual violations, the department could, with adequate notice, provide or appoint a monitor or other vendor for management support services and resources.
- S-2894, (Senator Vitale and Senator Brian Stack) which would provide for the establishment of Mission Critical Long-Term Care Teams, which would be responsible for identifying long-term care facilities for which progressive levels of oversight and direct intervention may be necessary to prevent the decline of health and safety at the facility.