Two bills recently passed in the Maryland Senate call for reforms to how the state handles cases of nursing home abuse and neglect complaints, requiring investigators to look into such complaints within days of them being filed.
Senate Bill 4 makes changes to the Oversight Committee on Quality of Care in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities. However, some of the biggest changes occur in Senate Bill 386, which call for the Maryland Department of Health to investigate complaints of a nursing home resident being harmed within 10 business days. If the complaint indicates that the resident is in immediate danger, the Health Department is required to investigate within 48 hours, and should try to investigate within 24 hours.
The bills come following a 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, which found Maryland to be one of the worst states in the nation for investigating nursing home complaints. Maryland’s Department of Health only investigated about a quarter of reports considered high level complaints, according to the findings.
The problem appears to extend far beyond Maryland. A report in March by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor, found that similar, or even worse, problems also exist in that state, with the state failing to investigate 97% of complaints.
As the large baby boomer population in the United States ages, the nursing home problems are expected to get worse, and its likely an issue that is not limited to residents of Maryland, Minnesota and other previously highlighted states.
In September, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch called on the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which oversees the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to explain how it plans to combat similar problems at nursing homes nationwide.
The letter came following an “Early Alert” (PDF) by the DHHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) on August 24, warning of potential abuse and neglect in nursing homes that are federally funded by Medicare. The report found 134 injuries of Medicare beneficiaries at skilled nursing facilities in 2016, which may have been the result of negligent care or abusive actions, but only 96 of those incidents were disclosed to the authorities.
The report raised concerns that many incidents at facilities that receive Medicare funding are going unreported, despite mandatory reporting requirements.