Feds promise to enhance industry oversight in wake of GAO report

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and three other senators made a bipartisan request in 2015 that the GAO study oversight of assisted living.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and three other senators made a bipartisan request in 2015 that the GAO study oversight of assisted living.

Responding to a report that cites lax state oversight, federal officials said they will begin to monitor potentially dangerous incidents at senior living communities more closely.

Representatives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told congressional investigators they will begin by increasing enforcement efforts against states that fail to meet existing reporting requirements. The agency will also clarify what states should include in reports when it comes to “health and welfare deficiencies.”

These enhanced efforts respond to a Government Accountability Office report issued earlier this week. Congressional investigators found many states were failing to notify the federal government about abuse, neglect and other potentially dangerous problems taking place in senior living settings.

Fully 26 state Medicaid agencies could not let the government know how many of these kinds of incidents happened in 2014, the report alleged.

CMS officials have not yet indicated whether they will follow a recommendation requiring annual reports that detail “critical incidents.” State rules vary here, but can include abusive provider practices, unexplained deaths, medication mishaps, unauthorized use of restraints, discharges and evictions.

Unlike skilled care settings, assisted living communities are not federally regulated. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chair Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) requested the GAO report.

Industry officials have indicated they are prepared to work with regulators and lawmakers to improve data gathering and reporting.

“We agree that safeguards are necessary to ensure high quality care, and that with better data from the states, we can better understand Medicaid's impact,” National Center for Assisted Living  Executive Director Scott Tittle said in a statement.

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