Wednesday, March 13, 2019

AHCA/NCAL Commends Congress for Reintroducing the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) recently commended several members of Congress for reintroducing the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2019 (H.R. 1682/S. 753).  Introduced on March 12, 2019, by Congressmen Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Glenn 'GT' Thompson (R-PA) and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the legislation ensures that time spent under “observation status” in a hospital counts toward satisfying the three-day inpatient hospital requirement for coverage of skilled nursing care services under Medicare.

“This bipartisan bill will help fix an outdated policy that continues to leave millions of Medicare beneficiaries surprised by thousands of dollars in medical bills and hanging with uncertainty regarding their access to the Medicare coverage they deserve,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL.  “The members of Congress that reintroduced this important legislation are advocates for our nation’s seniors and individuals who need skilled nursing care.  We applaud their efforts and support.”  For more information about the observation stays issue, please visit the AHCA/NCAL website​.

AHCA’s David Gifford Testifies in Front of Senate Finance Committee


Last week, David Gifford, MD, MPH, Senior Vice President of Quality at the American Health Care Association testified before the Senate Finance Committee to address concerns and instances of abuse and neglect in nursing centers.  The hearing, titled “Not Forgotten: Protecting Americans From Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes,” was called in response to two instances of abuse and neglect that happened to individuals in Iowa and Minnesota. The daughters of those individuals, Patricia Blank and Maya Fischer, also testified before the committee to tell their stories.

Gifford denounced abuse and neglect in nursing centers, saying they should never occur. “Families and residents like you and your mothers, who are often at their most vulnerable and in the most need of care and support, should never have to worry about their physical safety” he said during his opening remarks.

“AHCA remains committed to reducing any future cases of abuse and neglect.” Gifford said in a statement. “Since we voluntarily launched our Quality Initiative in 2012, we have seen tremendous improvements in the quality of care provided to nursing home residents. Care at our members’ nursing homes continues to improve and remain high for 18 of the 24 quality outcomes measured by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), including fewer residents receiving antipsychotic medications and more people returning home after rehabilitation care.

Gifford said that AHCA is offering solutions to help reduce instances of neglect and abuse. He said the main driver of quality is staffing and said incentives like a federal loan forgiveness program for nursing center staff. He also said that nursing centers should have access to a national background check registry and that resident and family satisfaction ratings of nursing homes should be publicly available.

“AHCA stands ready to work with Congress, members of the Senate Finance Committee, CMS, and other providers to keep residents safe and continue improving the quality of care provided,” he said in a statement.

Five-Star and Nursing Home Compare Change

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued a memorandum, "April 2019 Improvements to Nursing Home Compare and the Five Star Rating System," about changes to the Five-Star Rating system on Nursing Home Compare that will go into effect in April 2019. CMS has also posted a revised Technical Users' Guide reflecting these changes.

Highlights of the changes are:
  • CMS will end the survey freeze on the health inspection domain of Five Star and will resume the traditional method of calculating the health inspection scores by using three cycles of inspections.
  • Nursing Home Compare will begin to report separate ratings for short-stay quality measures and long-stay quality measures. With the introduction of these separate ratings, the thresholds for quality measures will increase every six months.
  • Additionally, two measures are being added to the quality measure domain, which include long-stay hospitalization and long-stay Emergency Department (ED) visits. The long-stay physical restraints measure will be removed from the quality measure rating. The short-stay pressure ulcer and short-stay discharge community measures currently used will be replaced with their analogous Quality Reporting Program (QRP) measures.
  • CMS will be adjusting the thresholds for overall staffing ratings, which will provide a greater emphasis on RN staffing.
  • CMS will give a one-star staffing rating to those facilities that report four or more days without an RN in a quarter.
Click here for a more detailed summary.

AHCA will continue to provide updates on these changes. If you have any questions, please contact research@ahca.org.

‘Live Soulfully’ Announced as 2019 Theme for National Skilled Nursing Care Week

The American Health Care Association (AHCA) recently announced “Live Soulfully” as the 2019 theme for National Skilled Nursing Care Week (NSNCW), which will be held May 12-18.  The theme “Live Soulfully” will celebrate skilled nursing centers, and their residents and staff, by showcasing how they achieve happy minds and healthy souls.  Whether it’s planting, cooking, reading or listening to music, these centers pay it forward by helping individuals find happiness to improve quality of life.  Centers will be encouraged to participate by hosting activities that display how they “Live Soulfully” and share their stories and experiences on social media. 

“Each and every person in our profession makes an impact on the lives of our residents,” said AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson. “National Skilled Nursing Care Week celebrates our centers and caregivers for their tireless everyday work caring for others.”

Established by the American Health Care Association (AHCA) in 1967, NSNCW, formerly known as National Nursing Home Week, recognizes the essential role of skilled nursing care centers in caring for America’s frail, elderly, and disabled.  Skilled nursing care centers and members of the public can download NSNCW promotional materials at www.ahcancal.org/NSNCW and are encouraged to share activities, ideas, and experiences for the observance on social media using the hashtag, #NSNCW.  AHCA will issue a planning guide and product catalog in late February.  For more information on National Skilled Nursing Care Week, visit www.ahcancal.org/NSNCW​.

We Need You for Our New Social Media Initiative

AHCA/NCAL is beginning a new social media advocacy initiative this year and is encouraging all members to get involved.  The effort focuses on improving the overall image of the post-acute and long term care profession by sharing positive stories and pushing back on pieces that attempt to tie all providers to isolated negative events.

AHCA/NCAL will be sending interested members tips for getting more involved on social media, best practices for posting content, sample posts, and a roundup of positive stories about the profession on a regular basis. Individuals who want to get involved should email socialmedia@ahca.org to get on the mailing list. AHCA/NCAL is encouraging all members to get involved.

The campaign also will include a rapid response to stories that are unfairly negative about the profession or do not accurately portray the reality of post-acute and long term care.  AHCA/NCAL hopes to build on these successes as the year continues. With thousands of buildings nationwide who touch the lives of millions of people, there is the chance to seriously affect the way the profession is viewed and treated by lawmakers and the media.



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