GAO report on assisted living could be a game changer

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Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

Update: See my article about the report here.

As the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles faced off Sunday in the biggest football matchup of the season, the Government Accountability Office was preparing to release a long-awaited report that could have states, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the assisted living industry playing defense.

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that the GAO is about to release the findings of its study of assisted living, titled “Improved Federal Oversight of Beneficiary Health and Welfare Is Needed.” The newspaper gave us an advance look at some of what industry professionals and anyone else who is interested will see when the report is made public:

  • States spent more than $10 billion per year in federal and state money for services for Medicaid beneficiaries who reside in assisted living communities, according to the GAO. Such beneficiaries numbered more than 330,000.
  • Only 22 states could provide information on cases involving the neglect, abuse, exploitation or unexplained death of Medicaid beneficiaries living in assisted living communities, despite their responsibility to collect such information, the agency said.
  • Guidance to states from CMS has been “unclear,” and CMS hasn't done much to monitor the ways in which federal dollars are used by assisted living communities, according to the report.

The industry has been awaiting the GAO's findings since four senators requested that the agency research assisted living in mid-2015.

“Given the growth in federal Medicaid spending for long-term care services and expected program growth caused by the aging and expansion of the population and program, information to understand federal and state spending and oversight of care provided in these settings is needed,” Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging; Claire McCaskill (D-MO), then the ranking member of the aging committee; Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote in a letter to the GAO at the time.

More than just waiting, however, representatives from Argentum, LeadingAge, the National Center for Assisted Living and the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living previously told McKnight's Senior Living that they also played offense, meeting with agency representatives and volunteering to serve as a resource as the study was underway.

The report may be a game changer.

McKnight's Senior Living will share additional insights and industry reactions related to the report when it is publicly released. In the meantime, as always, please feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Update: See my article about the report here.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers. Email her at lois.bowers@mcknights.com.

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