July 23, 2019

Cortez Masto Calls for Improved Accountability and Reporting to Protect Seniors in Nursing Care

Washington, D.C. – At a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) questioned government experts and health care advocates about elder abuse and neglect in America’s nursing homes. Cortez Masto called for better data tracking instances of abuse and neglect as well as stricter reporting standards for nursing homes.

“In your testimony, you stated that when Medicare beneficiaries residing in nursing homes are admitted to emergency rooms, twenty percent of the time that visit is the result of abuse or neglect on the part of the beneficiary’s nursing home. It’s clearly a problem. Let me ask you this: we’ve heard from stakeholders that this trend is improving, that skilled nursing facility quality is improving, would you agree with that?” the senator asked Megan Tinker, Senior Advisor for Legal Review at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Tinker explained that the data provided was only “a snapshot” of facility quality during 2016 and that a later analysis in 2017 showed that instances of abuse and neglect had actually slightly increased.

“Is there a way that we can implement reporting, tracking, data analytics to verify that this is ongoing and we can look at it at any time? That the public can look at it, the family members can look at it to see what is going on? Is there a way to do that?” asked the senator.

“That’s very aligned with the recommendation that we made to [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services], to look at overarching Medicare data for signs of potential abuse or neglect and to utilize that data to identify risk areas. And we will continue to recommend that,” replied Tinker, later explaining that CMS rejected that recommendation.

Senator Cortez Masto also raised concerns over OIG findings indicating that law enforcement was not being notified in a timely fashion when abuse occurred.

“When you talked about our statistic of one in five potential abuse or neglect cases occurring, out of those one in five, 84 percent were not reported as appropriate based on our findings… [W]hen law enforcement and appropriate reporting entities don’t have the information, they cannot take the steps to investigate and take appropriate corrective action about abuse and neglect,” explained Tinker.

The senator said: “[As] someone who was a former prosecutor and Attorney General, you want to preserve the evidence. You want to know immediately if there’s potential for criminal activity. You file that so you can preserve the evidence, put the facts together, do an investigation. If there is a delay in that, then there is a delay in holding somebody accountable based on the facts and evidence. You lose that evidence.”

Video from the hearing is available for download here.