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Congratulations to the 2017 Consumer Voice Leadership Award Winners!

November 16, 2017

The Consumer Voice is proud to announce the following recipients of its annual leadership awards.  Each of these individuals and organizations has worked tirelessly to improve quality in long-term care and preserve the rights of individuals receiving care and services.  Congratulations to this year's award winners!

The winners are:

Janet Tulloch Memorial Advocacy Award

Thomas Fonseca, Founder, The Fenwick Foundation

This award honors a citizen advocate, family caregiver or long-term care consumer who has worked directly with and for consumers to improve the lives of long-term care consumers.


 

Howard Hinds Memorial Award

Elaine Wilson, Ombudsman, SOWEGA Council on Aging

This award honors an individual who has effectively advocated for long-term care consumers on the local level.

 

Cernoria Johnson Memorial Advocacy Award

Nancy Shaffer, Connecticut State Long-Term Care Ombudsman

This award is presented to someone whose work has had a national impact or is a model for national excellence and who exemplifies accomplishments in his or her chosen field.


 

Janet Wells Public Policy Leadership Award

Justice in Aging

This award recognizes an individual or organization that has provided exemplary leadership in the public policy field in advancing quality of care and quality of life for residents receiving long-term care services.

 

Toby S. Edelman Legal Justice Award

Erica Wood, Assistant Director, American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging

This award honors those who work through or with the legal system and go to extraordinary lengths to achieve justice for long-term care consumers.


 

Elma Holder Founder's Award

Diane Menio, Executive Director, Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE)

This lifetime achievement award honors a person whose life work exemplifies leadership in the field of long-term care reform.

 

Special Lifetime Advocacy Award

Judith Mangum, Consumer Advocate

This award recognizes a special individual who has dedicated his/her life to advocated for quality care and quality of life for long-term care consumers.



Public Service Award

Melanie Hicken and Blake Ellis, Journalists, CNN

This award recognizes an individual or organization whose work has profoundly expanded coverage and public understanding of long-term care issues.

 

Congratulations to all the winners!

For more information about the award recipients, review the 2017 Consumer Voice Conference program

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Oppose Efforts to Rollback and Delay the Nursing Home Rules; Sign a Letter to CMS!

October 31, 2017

Since their release in October 2016, there have been multiple efforts to undermine, repeal, and delay the recently revised federal nursing home regulations – the requirements of participation.  These efforts continue to gain momentum.  The rules provide important new protections for residents and need to be preserved.  Support and protect residents by signing onto a Consumer Voice letter urging CMS to retain the requirements and implement them without delay.

To sign on, click here if you represent a group/organization/program.  Click here if you are an individual.  Sign-ons are due by November 15.

These updated, stronger regulations include a greater focus on person-centered care; improved protections against abuse, neglect and exploitation; improved staff training; notice to the ombudsman of proposed transfers/discharges; required infection prevention, and much more.  Residents should not have to wait any longer for these – and other – rights and protections.  With increasing needs of residents, and continued documentation of poor care in too many facilities, timely implementation of these regulations is needed now.

To learn more about the regulations and efforts to weaken or eliminate the standards, click here.

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New Guide on HCBS Settings Rule

October 20, 2017

Consumer Voice has created a new guide - "Understanding and Advocating for Effective Implementation of the Home and Community-Based Services Settings Rule."  In March 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published the first ever regulations establishing standards for the settings in which HCBS are provided. These regulations will impact the services, quality of life, and rights of HCBS care recipients, as well as the environment in which they receive those services. Each state must develop and implement a plan for how it will come into compliance with the HCBS rules. The involvement of advocates, including elder law attorneys, in influencing the plan and monitoring its implementation is critical.

This guide is designed to provide elder law attorneys with a better understanding of the HCBS settings rule and how they can advocate for a strong, effective system that achieves the spirit and intent of the rule.  The guide includes an overview of the rule, a process for states to comply with the HCBS Rule, opportunities for advocacy to promote your clients' best interests, and a review of special issues including dementia care and evictions. Development of this guide was supported by NAELA Foundation.

Read the guide here.

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House Passes Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act

October 04, 2017

After passing the Senate in August, yesterday the House passed the Grassley-Blumenthal “Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act”.  The bill will now go to the President's desk for signature.  The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act  would improve the nation’s response to elder abuse and financial exploitation of seniors. It does so by encouraging the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators who prey upon seniors, enhancing data collection, and supporting robust elder abuse prevention programs. 

Read the bill here.

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Consumer Voice Calls on CMS to Immediately Implement Recommendations in OIG's Early Alert

September 26, 2017

Consumer Voice, along with other organizations, has sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to urge them to immediately implement the recommendations in the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General's (OIG) Early Alert and to institute prompt enforcement of the reporting requirements instituted in the Social Security Act.  In August, OIG issued an Early Alert regarding the reporting of abuse and neglect of nursing home residents, finding that many incidents of potential abuse or neglect are not reported to law enforcement.  The OIG alert concluded that CMS procedures are not adequate to ensure incidents of potential abuse or neglect are identified and reported, and OIG recommended that CMS take a number of immediate actions to protect vulnerable nursing home residents.  Consumer Voice, and other organizations, are urging CNS to implement the recommendations now.  Unreported abuse cannot continue with impunity.  Nursing home residents cannot wait any longer for the requirements to report to law enforcement to be fully implemented and enforced.  Read the full letter to CMS here.

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More Needs to Be Done to Protect LTC Residents in Disaster Situations

September 20, 2017

The death of nine nursing home residents in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma is tragic and sad.  As the events in Hollywood and North Miami Beach unfold, it is a reminder of the vulnerability of long-term care facility residents, and older adults needing care and services in their own homes.   This situation provides a hard lesson about what it means to be prepared for an emergency, and the need to be vigilant about monitoring the adequacy of those plans.  

We know that elders are particularly susceptible to dehydration and heat, and they are acutely vulnerable in times of disaster.  As Florida officials investigate this terrible situation, we call on all communities to reassess their preparedness for, and ability to respond to, emergency situations.  From the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to state and local officials, power and energy companies, and long-term care providers themselves, there is an urgent need to reassess standards and procedures for both prevention and response to emergencies.

Our staff will continue to stay in close contact with our network in impacted states, and follow the reports on investigations and recovery to identify best practices and lessons learned in order to improve the emergency preparedness process to ensure the safety of all long-term care consumers.  For more information about emergency preparedness, visit our issue page.

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No Caps to Medicaid!

September 18, 2017

Right now, the Senate is working on its own bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  This bill, referred to as the Graham-Cassidy Bill, converts Medicaid into a per capita cap system.  A per capita cap means that states will receive a fixed amount of money per beneficiary, which will likely not include adjusments for the rising cost of health care or needs of the population.

Call your Senators & Governors and tell them, NO CAPS to MEDICAID!

You can call your Senators by dialing the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.  You can find the number for your Governor by clicking here.  When calling, you can discuss the following talking points:

  • Medicaid is the largest single payer of long-term care in our nation.
  • Medicaid is the ONLY way most people can afford long-term care.
  • Medicaid allows long-term care consumers to stay in their homes.

For nursing home residents and other long-term care consumers, caps to Medicaid would result in cuts to available care and services and would make it harder to qualify for care.

To learn more about per capita caps and how they can hurt nursing home residents, other long-term care consumers and their families, go to our webpage on preserving Medicaid.

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ACL Develops Principles for Person-Directed Services and Supports

September 05, 2017

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has developed Principles for Person-directed Services and Supports during Serious Illness. ACL will use these principles to inform policy discussions and enhance existing programs related to serious illness among older adults and individuals with disabilities. The principles focus on every person's right to make choices and control their own decisions regardless of age, disability, or stage of illness.

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OIG Investigation Finds Nursing Home Abuse Often Not Reported

August 29, 2017

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an early alert on Monday about potential abuse or neglect at skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). OIG's investigation has found that more than one-quarter of serious cases of nursing home abuse are not reported to law enforcement, despite state and federal law requiring it.  OIG is conducting an ongoing review into nursing home neglect and abuse, and their early alert was issued in order to prompt immediate actions to ensure better protection of individuals in SNFs.  The investigation reviewed records from 2015 and 2016 and found 134 cases of abuse severe enough to require emergency treatment; 28% of these cases were not reported to the police.  The alert determined that CMS has inadequate procedures to ensure that incidents of potential abuse are identified and reported, and it suggests immediate actions for CMS to protect vulnerable residents in SNFs.  Read the alert here.  Read the story from NPR here.

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Lance Robertson Confirmed as New ACL Administrator

August 11, 2017

On August 3, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee confirmed nominee Lance Robertson as the new Assistant Secretary on Aging and the Administrator of the Administration for Community Living (ACL). During his nomination hearing, Robertson laid out on his four-pronged strategy that he plans to implement during his tenure as the Assistant Secretary:

  • Improve access to information about LTC services and supports that are available both with publicly-funded and private-sector resources;
  • Promote vouchers, seek evidence-based solutions, and build support systems for working caregivers;
  • Strengthen elder justice; and
  • Increase the network’s business acumen, specifically in non-profit aging and disability community-based organizations.

To read Administrator Robertson’s opening statement to the HELP Committee, click here.

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Consumer Voice & Public Citizen Op-Ed on Forced Arbitration Agreements in Nursing Homes

August 02, 2017

Consumer Voice and Public Citizen have teamed up to shed light on forced arbitration agreements in nursing home admissions contracts.  Both organizations reiterate that a forced arbitration agreement "holds residents hostage - they must agree to give up their rights in order to have essential care and a place to live."  Read the full op-ed by clicking here.

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Oppose Pre-Dispute Arbitration in Nursing Homes: Sign on to a letter to CMS! Send comments!

July 25, 2017

As you’ve heard, CMS has issued a proposed rule to roll back its ban on nursing home pre-dispute arbitration agreements and to allow nursing homes to require residents to sign them in order to be admitted.  This rule is unfair to residents and their families and would harm residents’ rights, safety, and quality of care. 

CMS needs to hear from all of us that this proposed regulation is not acceptable!  Below are some very simple and fast actions you can take to tell CMS to withdraw the rule and restore the ban: 

  1. Sign on to a comment letter that Consumer Voice, along with many other organizations, has prepared. To sign on, click here if you represent a group/organization/program.  Click here if you are an individual.  Please sign on by August 4.

  2. Send in your own comment letter.  We are providing sample comments for organizations to submit or use to create their own comments. These sample group comments can be easily adapted for use by individuals.

    Click here to access a short version of a comment letter.
    Click here to access a longer version.

    Comments are due by 5:00 PM ET on August 7, 2017.

    The best way to submit comments is electronically.  Go to www.regulations.gov.  Within the search bar, enter the Regulation Identifier Number associated with this regulation - 
    0938–AT18 - and then click on the "Comment Now" box.

  3. Do BOTH – sign on and send in comments. 

 

Additional Information:

  • Read the proposed rule here.
  • To learn more about the proposed rule, click here.
  • To learn more about arbitration, visit our website.  


Questions?  Contact us at info@theconsumervoice.org.

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New Information Released by CMS: Revised Interpretive Guidelines, New F-Tags and More!

July 06, 2017

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a Survey & Certification Memo announcing the release of several new documents related to the revised federal nursing home regulations, and information about the new survey process and training resources. In the memo, CMS also revealed it will impose a one-year restriction of enforcement remedies for specific Phase 2 requirements and hold constant for one year the Nursing Home Compare health inspection rating for any surveys conducted after November 28, 2017.

Consumer Voice will provide advocates with more information about the Interpretive Guidelines once we have completed our review and analysis. Additional information about the new survey process will be coming as well.

Below is a summary of the Survey & Certification Memo:

Revised Interpretive Guidelines. These are contained in Revised State Operations Manual (SOM) Appendix PP.  The guidelines are effective November 28, 2017.  They include clarification to existing unchanged requirements, guidance for new requirements implemented in Phase 1, as well as guidance for the new Phase 2 regulations. CMS notes that it has added a section in some areas to the Interpretive Guidance titled “Key Elements of Noncompliance.” This is intended to provide guidance about the key behaviors and practices identified in the regulation.  Note that Appendix PP uses newly designated F-Tags (see below).

A Crosswalk of Old F-Tags to New F-Tags.  Since the regulatory sections in the revised rules were re-structured, CMS renumbered the F-Tags. Some tags were combined, and some tags were split into multiple subparts.  These new F-Tags will be used after November 28, 2017.  The crosswalk shows you old F-Tags and the corresponding new F-Tag(s).

Survey Process. CMS is launching a new, computer-based Long Term Care survey system at the same time that Phase 2 is implemented. Information about the survey process is available here, which includes a slide deck outlining the survey process.

Training Resources. CMS is providing several training resources on its website and on an MLN Connect call on July 25, 2017 from 1:30 to 3:00pm EST.

Enforcement and Nursing Home Compare Considerations.  CMS states that to address concerns related to the scope and timing of the changes, it will provide limited enforcement remedies for certain Phase 2 provisions and will be holding constant the Nursing Home Compare health inspection rating for one year.

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Residents' Rights Posters Available For Pre-Order

June 30, 2017

Residents’ Rights are guaranteed by the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. The law requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident” and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination.  This easy-to-read poster provides important information for all staff, volunteers, residents and advocates.  

Posters are printed on sturdy, glossy paper.  Choose the horizontal or vertical layout and 11"x17" or 18"x24" sizes depending on your needs.  Display these posters in facilities, resident rooms, or offices of advocates as a reminder of the important rights to which all residents are entitled.

Residents' Rights Posters are currently available for pre-sale and will be shipped beginning August 1st.  

Place your order now to ensure you get a copy of this must-have item for all advocates, facilities and residents!

Pre-order a 11" x 17" and 18" x 24" poster today!

Remember: Consumer Voice members receive 10% off all items in the online store. Join or renew your membership here.  Email info@theconsumervoice.org for the discount code.

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It's National Call-In Day to Save Our Health Care: Call Your Senator Today!

June 20, 2017

Today is a national call-in day to save our health care as we know it.  Call your Senator today!

  1. Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224‐3121.   If you can’t get through when you call, please keep trying. The switchboard is going to be extremely busy!

  2. Follow the prompts. Press “1” to indicate you want to speak with your Senator, then say your state and press “1”to indicate that the state is correct. Finally, press “1” to connect to your first Senator’s office.

  3. A staff person or machine will answer the phone. You can leave the message below.  Try to personalize the message if possible. 

    Hello, my name is (name).  I am a constituent of Senator (name) from (hometown).  I am calling to urge Senator NAME to vote against the American Health Care Act.  The bill would result in devasting cuts to Medicaid.  Medicaid is the only way most people can pay for long-term care, but these cuts would mean those in need of services and supports wouldn't get them. 

    Please tell Senator NAME to say "NO" to Medicaid cuts and caps and protect the care of all those needing long-term care in NAME OF YOUR STATE and the country.

  4. Repeat to call your second Senator and leave the same message.

Your advocacy matters!

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CMS needs to hear from you! Submit comments by June 26

June 19, 2017

As you may know, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is requesting comments on several items. These items include:

  • Modification or elimination of three (3) parts of the revised federal nursing home regulations- discharge notices to ombudsmen; the grievance process; and the Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement process.
  • Changes to Medicare reimbursement for skilled nursing facilities that would significantly change the financial incentives to facilities for providing therapy. 
  • Ideas for changes to eliminate unnecessary burdens for providers and patients. This solicitation of ideas can be used to advocate for changes related to how hospital time is counted to qualify for Medicare coverage of a skilled nursing facility stay (observation status).

We are providing sample comments for organizations to submit or use to create their own comments. These sample organizational comments can be easily adapted for use by individuals.

Click here to access the sample comments, or go to our website.

Comments are due by 5:00 PM ET on June 26, 2017.

The best way to submit comments is electronically.  Go to www.regulations.gov.  Within the search bar, enter the Regulation Identifier Number associated with this regulation - 0938-AS96 - and then click on the "Comment Now" box.

 

Additional Information:

  • To read the full text regarding the feedback CMS is seeking on the grievance process, QAPI, and discharge notices, go to the Federal Register, Vol. 82, No. 85, Thursday, May 4, 2017, pp.21088, or click here.
  • The revised regulations can be found here. Refer to the following sections: discharge notices to ombudsmen - 483.15(c)(3)(i); grievance process - 483.10(j); QAPI - 483.75.  
  • To learn about the proposed therapy changes, see the Center for Medicare Advocacy's Alert at CMA Alert, May 17, 2017.
  • For more information about observation status, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says, “Observation Status Resources and Links.”

Questions?  Contact us at info@theconsumervoice.org.

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It's World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15, 2017

Today, events are being held all over the world  to highlight the growing tragic issue of elder abuse.  As many as 1 in 10 older Americans are abused or neglected each year. Older adults are contributing members of American society and their abuse or neglect diminishes all of us. Elder abuse can be prevented if everyone would treat older Americans with respect and care. Let us use today as a call-to-action to raise awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elders.

Be a part of WEAAD today by participating in an event near you or taking part in the "Finish this Sentence" social media campaign with this template and using #WEAAD

Learn more about WEAAD

Find resources about identifying, preventing and reporting elder abuse on the NORC and Consumer Voice websites.

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Congress Wants to Limit Access to Justice

June 12, 2017

The House of Representatives will be voting on legislation, H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act, which will significantly strip away an individual’s right to justice through the courts in the event they are harmed or killed by a health care provider, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation facilities, doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies.  Act now and contact your representative in Congress.

Mr. H, father, grandfather, decorated U.S. Army veteran, suffered from a misplaced feeding tube which resulted in horrific pain for over 21 hours.  His family got justice from the Court and held the providers accountable when no one else would.

H.R. 1215 would have made it more difficult, if not prohibitive, for Mr. H's family to hold the negligent parties responsible for their actions.  This bill is bad for consumers because it:

  • Caps pain and suffering compensation (also known as non-economic damages*) at $250,000, even in states where such a cap is unconstitutional
  • Mandates that damages over $50,000 must be paid out periodically instead of in a lump sum, leaving long-term care consumers without the necessary resources to access care
  • Provides immunity to any health care provider who negligently prescribed or administered a prescription drug
  • Limits a consumer’s ability to bring one lawsuit against all responsible parties, instead forcing them to spend more time and money bringing individual suits against each responsible party
  • Mandates a more restrictive time period (statute of limitations) for the consumer to file the lawsuit
  • Severely limits attorney’s fees, which will cause even fewer attorneys to take these time-consuming cases

The House of Representatives will be voting on this legislation as early as Thursday, June 15, 2017.  Click here to tell your representative in Congress to VOTE NO to H.R. 1215.

To view our fact sheet on H.R. 1215, click here.  To take more actions, visit our website.

*Damages are any sum of money awarded in compensation for a loss or injury.  Non-economic damages include awards compensating the loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, anxiety, pain and suffering.

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Now Accepting Nominations for the 2017 Consumer Voice Leadership Awards!

June 09, 2017

Based on your nominations, Consumer Voice recognizes people who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to improving the lives of long-term care consumers. Individuals and organizations may nominate people for an award. Awards will be presented at our 41st Annual Conference, November 5-8, 2017, in Arlington, Virginia.

There are 3 easy steps to submit a nomination!

  1. Review the award categories and criteria.

  2. Complete the nomination form via SurveyMonkey

  3. Submit a letter of recommendation.

Click here to learn more about submitting your nomination.

Click here for a PDF of the nomination form.

Questions? Contact us at info@theconsumervoice.org.

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CMS Reverses Course on Pre-Dispute Arbitration

June 06, 2017

Eight months after publishing a final rule on the Revised Requirements of Participation for Nursing Facilities banning pre-dispute arbitration agreements for nursing home residents and family members, CMS is issuing new proposed rules that rescind resident protections against these unfair provisions.

According to CMS, it “now believe[s] that an outright ban on pre-dispute arbitration agreements and the further restrictions on post-dispute arbitration agreements do not strike the best policy balance,” and also that “a ban on pre-dispute arbitration agreements would likely impose unnecessary or excessive costs on providers.”  The proposed rule was placed on Public Inspection at the Office of the Federal Register on Monday, June 5, and is scheduled to be officially published in the Federal Register on Thursday, June 8, 2017.

In the proposed rule, CMS removes the requirement preventing facilities from entering into pre-dispute arbitration agreements, and also removes the provision banning facilities from requiring these agreements as a condition of admission.

Instead, CMS requires that an agreement for binding arbitration be explained to the resident and his/her representative in a manner that s/he understands, and that the resident acknowledges that s/he understands the agreement.   The agreement may not prohibit or discourage the resident or anyone else from communicating with federal, state, or local officials, including the survey agency and the long-term care ombudsman program.  CMS kept the provision that when a dispute is settled through arbitration, a copy of the signed agreement for binding arbitration, as well as the arbitrator’s final decision must be kept by the facility for 5 years and be available for inspection upon request by CMS or its designee.

Additionally, CMS requires that the arbitration agreement be in plain language; and if it is a condition of admission, that it be in plain writing in the admission contract.  Lastly, CMS is proposing that facilities be required to post a notice describing its policy on the use of agreements for binding arbitration in an area that is visible to residents and visitors.

Gone from the rule is not only language banning pre-dispute arbitration as a condition of admission, but also requirements from the 2016 final rule for post-dispute binding arbitration that the agreement be entered into voluntarily by the resident, that a neutral arbitrator be mutually agreed upon, and that the venue for arbitration be convenient to both parties.  

Shortly after publication of the final rule in October 2016, the American Health Care Association and affiliated nursing homes filed a lawsuit against CMS seeking an order stopping enforcement of the provision.  The district court concluded that the rule was likely in conflict with the Federal Arbitration Act and ordered the preliminary injunction.  On June 5, 2017, the government filed a notice with the court that they will seek a stay of the injunction, pending the completion of the rule making process.

Comments on this forthcoming proposed rule will be due 60 days from the date of publication in the federal register, or on or about August 7, 2017. 

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Webinar Covers How AHCA Would Affect Medicaid

May 30, 2017

On May 24th, the Alliance for Health Reform held a webinar focused on how the American Health Care Act would impact states and Medicaid beneficiaries, how a system of per capita caps would work, what was learned from the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and how states might respond to new waiver flexibility from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  Find the webinar recording, transcript and speaker presentations here.

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NPR Publishes Story on States Efforts to Crack Down on Involuntary Discharge

May 30, 2017

A recent story by NPR covers several states' attempts to crack down on involuntary discharge from nursing homes.  Maryland is suing nursing home chain Neiswanger Management Services (NMS) for Medicaid fraud.  Maryland's State Attorney General Brian Frosh stated that more than half of all involuntary discharges in Maryland come from nursing homes run by NMS.  The lawsuit alleges that NMS charged the state for discharge planning services it didn't deliver.  Nursing homes are obligated to ensure that discharged residents go somewhere safe.  Yet, NMS has sent residents to homeless shelters and unlicensed board and care homes. Frosh asserts that NMS was discharging residents for its own financial gain.  Medicare payments for long-term care only last for 100 days; NMS evicted residents just as they were transitioning from Medicare. 

Other states are also fighting unfair involuntary discharges.  In Illinois, according to the last five years of data, nursing home discharges have more than doubled. State lawmakers have proposed legislation which aims to crack down on improperly discharging residents, ensuring that residents won't get discharged for complaining too much or requiring too much staff time.  Read more on NPR.

Involuntary transfer and discharge is the #1 complaint reported to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.  For additional information and resources, visit the Consumer Voice webpage and the National LTC Ombudsman Resource Center webpage.

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CMS Provides Update on Special Focus Facility Initiative

May 26, 2017

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has provided an update on the Special Focus Facility (SFF) Initiative.  The update provides a list of nursing homes that have had a history of serious quality issues and are included in a special program to encourage improvements.  CMS provides tables with facilities in five different categories 1.) New Additions; 2.) Not Improved; 3.) Improving; 4.) Recently Graduated and 5.) No Longer in Medicare and Medicaid.  The website is part of an effort from CMS to address the problem of chronically under-performing nursing homes.  

Read the update here.

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CMS Announces Extension for Compliance with Home- and Community-Based Settings Rule

May 24, 2017

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a three-year extension for state Medicaid programs to meet the Home- and Community-Based settings requirements. States now have until March 17, 2022, to comply with the final rule. For more information, see the informational bulletin from CMS.

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We’re fighting the good fight … and we need your help!

May 09, 2017

Dear Friends,
We’re fighting the good fight … and we need your help!

During these past few months, there has been an unprecedented assault on the policies that support access to quality long-term care and protect the rights of long-term care consumers.  We are fighting back.

  • We are fighting proposed cuts to and changes* in the long-term care safety net program, Medicaid, that will mean:
    • Less access to nursing homes and home and community based care,
    • Tougher eligibility standards to qualify for Medicaid,
    • Saddling older adults and individuals with disabilities and their families on limited incomes with the added burden of paying for nursing home care - $82,000 per year for a semi-private room, and
    • Weakened oversight of long-term care facilities.
  • We are fighting harsh restrictions on consumers’ access to the justice system if they have been harmed by negligent or abusive health care providers. The proposed restrictions would:
    • Leave victims without rights or recourse for justice,
    • Protect those who are negligent or abusive, and
    • Perpetuate poor practices that lead to serious injury and death.
  • We were successful in fighting threats to roll back newly revised nursing home regulations that enhance protections from evictions, abuse, and neglect.

Consumer Voice staff have been working tirelessly to battle attacks that will turn the clock on long-term care and consumer rights back 40 years!  Will you join us?


Your donation will help our staff:

  • Educate members of Congress about the impact of these harmful proposals on residents and families;
  • Analyze the new proposals that are being released weekly to determine their impact on residents and other long-term care consumers;
  • Mobilize advocates from across the country – including residents, individuals receiving long-term care and services in home and community based settings, and their family members – to tell their representatives in Congress how these policies will affect them.

In addition, your support will help continue the work of our wonderful Consumer Advisory Council, made up of current and former residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Last year, your donations helped us launch the Council. As active, vocal advocates, the Council members have already accomplished the following:

  • Conducted three conference call meetings.
  • Participated on Consumer Voice work groups, including work groups developing comments on new regulatory guidance, and planning Residents’ Rights Month.
  • Attended two four-day Stakeholder Sessions hosted by CMS earlier this year and provided input on the development of revised Interpretive Guidelines.

In 2017, we will expand the Council to include additional members, and involve them in even more policy issues.  If you know a resident who might be interested in joining our Consumer Advisory Council, let me know!

Every dollar helps!  Consider a monthly donation, which keeps these activities going year-round!  Make a donation now.

Thank you for being a strong supporter of Consumer Voice!

Sincerely,

 
Lori Smetanka
Executive Director
 

*Congress’ first recent attempt to change Medicaid failed, but another bill is up for a vote soon!

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Toolkit To Reduce CAUTI and Other HAIs in Long-Term Care Facilities

May 09, 2017

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released a Toolkit to Reduce CAUTI and Other HAIs in Long-Term Care Facilities.  Consumer Voice was a partner on this project. The toolkit is based on the experiences of 450 nursing homes that participated in the AHRQ Safety Program for Long-Term Care: Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs)/Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs).  The toolkit combines clinical interventions and best practices for infection prevention with behavior change elements that promote leadership involvement, improvement in safety culture, teamwork, and communication, and sustainability. Its user-friendly educational modules, guides, and tools can help facilities advance from the "what to do" to the "how to do it.”  They include: Using the Comprehensive Long-Term Care Safety Toolkit; Senior Leader Engagement; Staff Empowerment; Teamwork and Communication; Resident and Family Engagement; Sustainability; Indwelling Urinary Catheter Use and Care; and Urine Culturing and Antibiotic Stewardship.

For more information on infection prevention, visit Consumer Voice's issue page on the topic.

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Join the Resident's Voice Challenge

April 25, 2017

Creative writing and artistic expression are meaningful and compelling ways to highlight the importance of residents’ rights and how these rights can be carried out in all long-term care settings.   For this year’s Resident’s Voice Challenge, residents are encouraged to pick up their pens, dust off their type writers or use a computer to display their writing or artistic skills by submitting essays, poems, artwork, drawings, or videos related to the theme for Residents' Rights Month 2017 "It’s All About Me: My Life, My Care, My Choices".  Learn more here.

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Call for Medicaid Stories

April 23, 2017

Click here for more information.

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Consumer Voice Issues Joint Statement on Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes

April 12, 2017

Consumer Voice, with the Long Term Care Community Coalition, Center for Medicare Advocacy, and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, issued a joint statement in response to the recent reports exposing abuse and neglect in nursing homes across the country.  The statement urges that more - not less - accountability is needed to ensure the safety and dignity of vulnerable nursing home residents. A substantial body of evidence shows the need for stronger accountability for nursing home resident safety.  Read the statement here.

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Revised Nursing Home Regulations Are Safe!

March 31, 2017

The revised nursing facility regulations were subject to repeal under the Congressional Review Act (CRA)*.  However, the deadline for introducing resolutions of disapproval under the CRA passed yesterday, Thursday, March 30.  Since no resolution had been introduced to repeal the revised nursing facility regulations by the deadline, they are safe from repeal.

These vital regulations increase quality of care and quality of life for nursing home residents by requiring:

  • greater emphasis on a resident's individual needs and preferences
  • prompt development of a care plan
  • more comprehensive care
  • improved training
  • improved protections against abuse, neglect and exploitation
  • better protection of resident property
  • increased visitation rights
  • protection against evictions
  • a limitation of nursing facilities' ability to "dump" a resident at the hospital

With these regulations, nursing home residents across the country will experience a higher quality of care and life.

To view more information, including Rule Resources and webinars, on the revised federal nursing facility regulations, click here.

*The CRA is a law passed in 1996 that allows Congress to repeal or prevent a regulation issued by a federal agency from taking effect.  The CRA states that all regulations passed in the last 60 legislative days under the previous administration are subject to repeal.  The revised federal nursing home regulations were issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and became effective on October 4, 2016.  Since the revised regulations became effective in the last 60 legislative days of the previous administration, they were subject to repeal through the CRA.

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Announcing Residents' Rights Month 2017

March 28, 2017

October is “Residents’ Rights Month,” an annual event designated by Consumer Voice to honor residents living in all long-term care facilities. It is an opportunity to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the rights of each resident.

The theme for this year's Residents' Rights Month, "It's All About Me: My Life, My Care, My Choices," focuses on the respect and dignity of every resident.  The theme highlights residents’ rights to choose their own schedule and activities, communicate how and with whom they choose, be free from abuse and unsafe environments, and be treated as an individual with unique wants and needs.  Residents’ Rights Month is a time for staff, families, ombudsmen, residents and other advocates to focus on resident-directed care and emphasizing the self-determination, choice, and quality of life of each resident.

Find more information about 2017 Residents' Rights Month click here.

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New Issue Brief on Admissions in Revised Federal Nursing Home Regulations

March 15, 2017

Consumer Voice, in partnership with Justice in Aging and the Center for Medicare Advocacy, is developing a series of briefs entitled "A Closer Look at the Revised Nursing Facility Regulations."  This new brief in the series explains the changes in admission, bedhold and return regulations, which include broadly prohibiting facilities from using admission agreements or other documents that waive a resident's rights.  The revised regulations also prohibit pre-dispute arbitration agreements, but this consumer protection is currently blocked by a court order.  Read the brief here.

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Save Medicaid & Protect All Long-Term Care Consumers: Oppose Medicaid Per Capita Caps!

March 13, 2017

Medicaid is a lifeline for nursing home residents and other long-term care consumers.  But that lifeline may be taken away. The US House of Representatives has just issued a proposal to change the Medicaid program by going to a system of per capita caps.   The proposal is part of a  plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.  These changes to Medicaid would be devastating to nursing home residents and other long-term care consumers. Tell your members of congress to oppose per capita caps!

Here’s why per capita caps are so harmful:
 
They only give states a fixed amount of money per Medicaid beneficiary. The amount doesn’t change over time, so the result is a massive cut in Medicaid funding.  For long-term care consumers, this means:

  • Services/coverage would be drastically reduced or eliminated.
  • Eligibility standards would be tightened, making it harder to get into a nursing home or receive home and community-based services.
  • The personal needs allowance for nursing home residents could be slashed to the federally required minimum of $30 per month, leaving residents with even less money for items like clothing or hair cuts.

Nursing home quality care would decline because nursing homes would cut staff and there would be fewer nursing home inspectors (surveyors).To learn more about per capita caps and how they can hurt nursing home residents, other long-term care consumers and their families, go to our webpage on preserving Medicaid.

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Senator Franken Reintroduces Arbitration Fairness Act

March 03, 2017

Consumer Voice sent a letter to Senator Al Franken in support of his reintroduction of the Arbitration Fairness Act. Consumer Voice opposes pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home admissions contracts as they prevent residents from obtaining justice in many instances of negligence, abuse or violations of residents' rights. Read the full letter to Senator Franken here.

For more information on how forced arbitration agreements harm long-term care consumers, visit our issue page.

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Consumer Voice Issues Statement on American Health Care Act

March 10, 2017

The American Health Care Act
Harmful for Long-Term Care Consumers and Those Who Care for Them

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (Consumer Voice) issued the following statement on the American Health Care Act:

The American Health Care Act is detrimental for long-term care consumers and those who care for them.  Proposed changes to Medicaid, the primary payer of long-term care in this country, to a capped payment system would result in cuts to the amount of money states receive, impacting the services provided to beneficiaries.  Inevitable cuts will mean that states will likely change Medicaid eligibility requirements, and reduce services being offered, including access to long-term care.

Medicaid pays for more than half of all long-term care in the United States, and nearly 50% of all nursing home costs. The annual cost of a shared room in a nursing home is more than $82,000 per year.  Few individuals or families can afford that for an extended period. These proposed changes would impose tremendous financial burdens on individuals needing long-term care and their families.

Additionally, the American Health Care Act will make it harder for caregivers to obtain affordable health insurance.  Many direct care workers receive minimum wage, but are not provided with health benefits through their employer.  The Affordable Care Act was instrumental in providing affordable health care for many direct care workers, including through the expansion of Medicaid to individuals who live below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.  The proposal in the American Health Care Act to eliminate the Medicaid expansion, now implemented by 31 states, will put at risk the health care of hundreds of thousands of direct care workers.

Congress must reject the American Health Care Act because it is harmful to those who most need access to care. 

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Groups - Sign onto the letter opposing H.R. 1215

March 03, 2017

Earlier this week, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee passed out of committee a bill that would be extremely harmful to consumers - the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017” (H.R. 1215) - which would limit the ability to hold all healthcare providers accountable.  The bill’s sweeping scope covers not only cases involving medical malpractice, but also cases involving unsafe drugs and nursing home abuse and neglect.  We are very concerned about this bill's far-reaching effects for those receiving care in the community and nursing homes.  Here is a link to the issue brief about the bill.
 
Advocacy is needed right away because the bill is expected to go to the House floor for a vote in the next couple of weeks.
 
If you are part of a state or national group, please take action by signing your organization on to a letter opposing the bill that the Center for Justice and Democracy is circulating. Here is the link to the letter.

Your organization’s signature will help show Congress that a broad group of community, consumer, health, and public interest organizations strongly oppose H.R. 1215. The letter will be sent to the House prior to the floor vote.
 
Groups can sign on by emailing info@theconsumervoice.org and letting us know the name of your organization. If you are a state group, please indicate your state.  Signatures are due COB Thursday, March 9.
 
If you need additional information or have any questions, please email Alisha Lineswala at alineswala@theconsumervoice.org or Robyn Grant at rgrant@theconsumervoice.org.
 
Thank you in advance for your advocacy!

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Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes - Joint Statement from CV, NCEA, and NOVA

February 24, 2017

Wednesday’s report by CNN, Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes[1] is a shocking reminder that abuse, including sexual abuse, of nursing home residents continues to be a very real problem.  Residents and families need to have confidence that when they turn to a long-term care facility, that every possible step will be taken to protect them from such horrific acts.  

Too often, frail, vulnerable residents, including those living with dementia, are targeted by abusers who use fear and intimidation, or even a resident’s cognitive impairments to try to avoid prosecution[2].

Federal regulations[3] state that all residents have the right to be free from abuse.  Additionally, nursing homes must ensure that they have written policies and procedures to prevent abuse, to investigate any allegations, and to ensure that any allegations of abuse are reported immediately to the appropriate agencies.
 
What are signs that a nursing home resident is being sexually abused?

Physical indicators of sexual abuse include[4]:

  • Bruises around inner thighs, the genital area or breasts
  • Unexplained genital infections or venereal disease
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, pain or irritation
  • New difficulty sitting or walking
  • Torn, stained or bloodied underclothing
  • An elder’s report of being sexually assaulted or raped

Social indicators of sexual abuse include[5]:

  • Extreme agitation
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Panic attacks or emerging post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unusual behavior between the victim and the elder sexual abuse suspect

Victims of dementia will exhibit anxiety or excessive fear around the person providing or tending to their care. They may also engage in more aggressive behaviors.[6]
 
Getting Help

Once a person has suspicions of, or has identified, that a resident is being sexually abused, get help immediately.  

Call:

  • 911 or the local police
  • State Licensing and Certification Agency. This is the agency that inspects nursing homes and investigates complaints.
  • Adult Protective Services (APS).  In some states, APS investigates reported suspicions about abuse of nursing home residents.
  • The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.  The local long-term care ombudsman is an advocate for nursing home residents and can assist the resident in getting the help needed.
  • Report the abuse to the nursing home administrator.

Contact information for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, Adult Protective Services, or the State Survey and Certification Agency can be found at www.theconsumervoice.org.
 
For more information, go to:
 
National Center on Elder Abuse – https://ncea.acl.gov/
 
National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care – www.theconsumervoice.org
 
National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center – www.ltcombudsman.org
 
National Organization for Victim Assitance – http://www.trynova.org/



[1] See “Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes” at http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/02/health/nursing-home-sex-abuse-investigation/.
[2] See “Challenges When Investigating Elder Sexual Abuse” at http://www.ncall.us/sites/ncall.us/files/H_07%20Sexual%20Assault.pdf.
[3] 42 CFR 483.12(c )
[4] See “Elder Sexual Abuse” at http://nursinghomeabuseguide.com/elder-abuse/sexual-abuse/.
[5] See “Elder Sexual Abuse” at http://nursinghomeabuseguide.com/elder-abuse/sexual-abuse/.
[6] See “Abuse” at https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-elder-abuse.asp.

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Consumer Voice Issues Statement on CNN Report on Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

February 23, 2017

We at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (Consumer Voice) express outrage and horror in response to the findings of the CNN investigative report on sexual abuse in nursing homes, Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes.

“We have been advocating for quality care for more than four decades, yet the findings of the CNN investigation are among the most shocking and frightening we have ever encountered," said Executive Director Lori Smetanka. "The sexual abuse of defenseless, vulnerable residents who can’t remove themselves from harm, often can’t communicate what has happened, and are frequently not believed even when they do, is reprehensible.”

The cases highlighted in the CNN report represent a complete breakdown at every level of the system designed to protect nursing home residents.  There are many contributing factors –including insufficient staff and training, inadequate background checks, failure to report allegations, inadequate investigations, and lack of prosecution.

The issue of sexual abuse is complex and change needs to occur at many different levels in order to address it. “But, we know that stronger nursing home regulations, more effective enforcement and increased staff in nursing homes are critical, and that we can’t begin to solve this problem without those three elements,” said Smetanka.  The federal government recently released revised rules that mandate better abuse protections, including reporting requirements. However, these rules could be rolled back by Congress under a rarely used federal law.  Consumer Voice advocated for these stronger nursing home protections and is fighting against repeal.  “Clearly, vast improvements are needed in the response to abuse, but the CNN investigation shows that greater protections are needed, not less.” said Smetanka.

In addition to more stringent rules and enforcement, there are steps that consumers can take to better protect themselves or their loved ones in nursing homes. Current and prospective residents and their families can educate themselves about warning signs and how to report suspected sexual abuse.  They can also contact the long-term care ombudsman program (www.ltcombudsman.org) if they have concerns. And they should immediately report any suspicions of abuse to the police and the state agencies that oversee nursing homes.  For more information and resources, go to www.theconsumervoice.org.

It is unacceptable that anyone should have to live in fear of sexual abuse at the hands of those paid to care for them. “There should be no facility in the country where such abuse takes place,” said Smetanka.  “We all, nursing homes, regulators, advocates, staff, and law enforcement need to commit to a zero tolerance policy and ensure swift action and accountability when such situations occur.”


Find resources on sexual abuse in nursing homes and many relevant resources on other types of elder abuse on the Consumer Voice issue page.

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New Issue Brief on Nursing Services

February 21, 2017

The new issue brief looks specifically at nursing services.  The regulations failed to include a numerical minimum staffing standard, instead maintaining the previous requirement that “sufficient staff ” be available. The regulations do, however, place a greater emphasis on establishing minimum competencies and skill sets for all nursing personnel. Facilities must assess their resident population and resources to determine both the number and competencies of staff needed to care for residents.

In addition, the regulations have increased requirements for in-service training of nursing personnel. Finally, the revised regulations require that the resident and resident representative be notified of any waivers of nursing staff requirements.

Visit the Consumer Voice website for the other issue briefs in the series.  

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Oppose the Repeal of the ACA and Changes to Medicaid

February 17, 2017

The ACA didn’t just expand coverage for millions of Americans, it was the first law in many years to adddress the quality of care in nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. The ACA provides more accountability, improved training, and makes prevention of elder abuse a national priority.

The ACA also improves access to home care services, which keep people at home and help nursing home residents move back into the community.

Repeal of the ACA could eliminate these protections, improvements, and services.

At the same time, proposals to replace the ACA include significant changes to Medicaid.  These plans would impose spending caps per enrollee or convert Medicaid into block grants - resulting in Medicaid cuts.  In addition, federal nursing home quality standards could be eliminated because states would receive federal monies with relatively few requirements.  These changes to Medicaid put long-term care consumers at risk.

Please contact your members of Congress now and urge them to vote to keep Medicaid as it is AND to vote against repeal of the Affordable Care Act without adequate replacement!  Click here to send your message.

Thank you for taking action!

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Article - "Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Offers Trust and Solutions"

February 14, 2017

Director of the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs within the Administration for Community Living Becky A. Kurtz recently wrote an article in the Society of Certified Senior Advisors Journal.  In the article, titled "Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Offers Trust and Solutions", she explains how and why the Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs exist, and the kinds of benefits they’ve provided for long-term care residents for decades. This article presents how Ombudsmen frequently assist older Americans who’ve been inappropriately discharged or evicted from their nursing homes. According to the article, 74% of complaints handled by Ombudsmen in 2015 were resolved to the satisfaction of the resident. LTC Ombudsmen and the residents they work with build strong bonds that allow residents to feel comfortable, leading to greater satisfaction with their communities.

Read the article here.

Reposted with permission from the CSA Journal. Society of Certified Senior Advisors. All rights reserved. www.csa.us.

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New Fact Sheets on Revised Federal Nursing Home Regulations

February 08, 2017

Consumer Voice, along with Justice in Aging and Center for Medicare Advocacy, have released new issue briefs in our series on the revised federal nursing facility regulations.  The fact sheets can help residents, family members and advocates better understand how the regulations, which went into effect November 28, 2017.  New fact sheets cover:

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Fight the Repeal of the Revised Nursing Home Regulations!

January 27, 2017

On January 30, 2017 from 3-4 PM ET, tweet your members of Congress to not repeal the revised federal nursing home regulations through the CRA.  Send as many tweets as possible during that hour!  By doing so, you'll be tweeting with others nationwide in a "twitter storm."  Continue tweeting afterwards at least once a day until February 11, 2017.

Click here to view our communications toolkit that includes information on the CRA and what it means for nursing home residents if the revised nursing home regulations are repealed.

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Family Caregivers Speak at Senate Forum

January 19, 2017

Senators including, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), held a forum featuring testimony from Americans who would be hurt by the policies of Tom Price, the nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.  Testifiers, including family caregivers, told their stories of how they have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid.  Watch the forum here.

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Consumer Voice Releases Report on Nursing Home Closures

November 08, 2016

Successful Transitions: Reducing the Negative Impact of Nursing Home Closures, a new report released by Consumer Voice, examines reasons why nursing home residents may suffer harm when their nursing home closes and identifies ways to reduce or eliminate such harm. The study found that major obstacles to a successful transition include lack of appropriate and nearby placements or providers who do not want to take a specific resident; poor discharge planning; and lack of communication and time to find new placements for residents. These are serious barriers, but innovative strategies and practices in several states appear to have the potential to address these issues. The report discusses these practices and recommends actions that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), state agencies and State Long- Term Care Ombudsman Programs can take to better protect nursing home residents facing relocation.

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Part II of Summary of Key Changes Now Available

December 22, 2016

This summary presents an overview of key changes in the revised federal nursing home regulations for the sections on Resident Assessment (§483.20) – Training Requirements (§483.95).  It is designed to highlight what is different between the prior rule and the final rule and includes only those parts of the rule that went into effect in Phase 1 on November 28, 2016.

Part II, combined with Part I, cover all sections of the regulations.

For more information about the nursing home requirements and to access Summary of Key Changes - Part I, click here.

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New Fact Sheet on Importance of Revised Nursing Home Regulations for Nursing Home Residents

December 20, 2016

Consumer Voice and Justice in Aging have released a new fact sheet entitled "Why the Recently-Revised Nursing Home Regulations are Vital for Nursing Home Residents."  After four years of work from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), newly revised federal nursing facility regulations were released in September, and most provisions went into effect on November 28.  These revised regulations provide critical consumer protections.  This fact sheet provides an overview of some important new revisions and how they protect long-term care consumers.  Stakeholders and policymakers can use the fact sheet to better understand the role the revised regulations have in improving nursing care, including an increased focus on addressing a resident's needs and preferences.  Read the fact sheet here.

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Tell Congress Not to Repeal the Affordable Care Act!

December 20, 2016

Congressional Leaders have promised, as a first order of business in January, to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).   This could harm nursing home residents and other long-term care consumers, their families, the workers who care for them and many others. Tell your Senators and Representative NO!

  • Repealing the ACA without a comparable replacement plan that would go into effect immediately would leave millions without healthcare coverage and raise costs for millions more.
  • Nursing home residents could lose important protections that are part of the ACA. These include: 
    • A system for collecting more accurate data about staffing in nursing homes
    • Dementia and abuse prevention training
    • Support for state programs for national criminal background checks
    • Mandatory reporting of suspected crimes against residents to law enforcement
  • Programs that improve access to home care services could be eliminated - forcing people into nursing homes, costing taxpayers more money, and breaking up families.  Losing these programs could also stop nursing home residents from transitioning back into the community.

Ask your Senators and Representative to oppose repealing the ACA without replacing it by clicking here.

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New Fact Sheet on Assessment, Care Planning, and Discharge Planning

December 05, 2016

Consumer Voice, Center for Medicare Advocacy and Justice in Aging released a brief "A Closer Look at the Revised Nursing Facility Regulations: Assessment, Care Planning, and Discharge Planning."  The brief covers how the revised nursing facility regulations broadly affect facility practices, including assessment, care planning and discharge planning.  The revised assessment process places greater emphasis on a resident's preferences, goals, and life history.  The brief highlights regulations on assessments, baseline care plans, comprehensive care plans - including the care planning process and care plan contents, and discharge plans.  It also gives information on effective dates. how to find the regulations and specific tips for residents and advocates.

This brief is the first of a series explaining important provisions of the revised regulations.

View the brief here.

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New Guides on How New HCBS Rules Affect Adult Day Services and Assisted Living

November 23, 2016

Consumer Voice and Justice in Aging created two guides on how the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) rules can be used to improve services for older persons. These guides are meant to assist state advocates as they develop "transition plans" to implement new federal rules and set policy in that state for 2019 and into the future. "Medicaid’s New Rule to Promote Independence and Choice for Persons Receiving HCBS" provides an overview of the rule, with a focus on HCBS for older persons. "Applying the New Federal HCBS Rules to Adult Day Centers" examines how the HCBS rules can improve services provided in those settings.

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New Fact Sheet on the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

November 15, 2016

Consumer Voice and the National Center on Elder Abuse created a helpful fact sheet providing an overview of the long-term care ombudsman program.  This resource walks readers through what the long-term care ombudsman program is, what the Ombudsman program does and does not do, links to information on residents’ rights, and some helpful FAQs.

View the fact sheet here.

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Webinar Recording Available for "Piecing Together Quality Long-Term Care"

October 12, 2016

Most of us will, at some point in our lives, need assistance with the tasks of everyday life. What are the options available?  Where can you go for information and assistance? What types of things should be considered? This webinar will walk you through the different pieces you, or your client, need to consider to obtain quality long-term services and supports.  Presenter Robyn Grant provides can't-miss tools and information for navigating the complicated world of long-term care.  Purchase the webinar via our online store.

Other webinar recordings for sale include - "Preventing Avoidable Hospitalizations" and "Obtaining Quality Care for Residents with Dementia."  Find more information here.

Purchase all three webinars for a discounted price.

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CMS Prohibits Pre-Dispute Arbitration in Newly Released Federal Nursing Home Regulations

September 30, 2016

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has just released a comprehensive revision of federal nursing facility regulations.   The regulations and explanatory material (over 700 pages total) are available here. Currently, many nursing facility admission agreements include provisions obligating the resident to have disputes adjudicated through private arbitration.  Such “pre-dispute” arbitration agreements now will be prohibited.  Arbitration agreements will be allowed only when the events at issue occurred before the arbitration agreement was signed.

The prohibition of such agreements comes after Consumer Voice's efforts to urge CMS to include such a provision.

For more information, read the New York Times article.  For Consumer Voice's breakdown of other provisions included in the nursing home regulations, click here.

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Consumer Voice Sends Comments to CMS on Special Focus Facilities

September 15, 2016

On September 15th, Consumer Voice sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in support of the Special Focus Facility (SFF) program as a way to bring nursing facilities with a history of persistently poor care into compliance.  The letter provided comments on the proposed SFF memo on the following issues:

  • Consumer Voice agrees with with the Long-Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC) that the number of SFF slots per state should be increased to the pre-sequestration level and that CMS should establish a plan to ultimately include all the nursing homes on the candidate list.   If a nursing home’s performance is bad enough to qualify the facility for the candidate list, it should be designated a SFF. 
  • We encourage CMS to require that the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman have input into the selection of the SFF.
  • We recommend the following agencies/entities/programs also receive written notification of the SFF selection:  Adult Protective Services, guardianship programs, the QIO-QIN, the state Medicaid agency, the state nursing home administrator licensing board (a board might consider review of an administrator’s license based on the facility’s poor performance), and hospitals in the areas surrounding the SFF.   
  • We are concerned that although a facility may show improvement between two consecutive surveys, i.e. no deficiencies at a scope and severity of “F” or greater (or “G” or greater for LSC deficiencies) and no complaints substantiated with deficiencies at “F” or greater (or “G” or greater for LSC deficiencies), this time period is too short to indicate that sustainable improvement has been made.  To better ensure that facilities have attained and maintained improvement over time prior to graduation, Consumer Voice proposes that homes that have completed two consecutive standard surveys with no deficiencies at a scope and severity of “F” or greater (or “G” or greater for LSC deficiencies) and no complaints substantiated with deficiencies at “F” or greater (or “G” or greater for LSC deficiencies), be required to remain in the SFF program.
  • We recommend that at least 25% of the surveys be conducted on a weekend and/or after business hours. This would better ensure that surveyors are getting an accurate picture of conditions in the facility.
  • We are pleased to see that remedies must be imposed with increasing severity, but are concerned that there is not sufficient guidance on what increasing severity means.

Read the full letter here.

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Consumer Voice Featured in Philanthropy Journal News

September 09, 2016

Consumer Voice Executive Director Lori Smetanka wrote about Consumer Voice's many policy initiatives and programs in a feature in the Philanthropy Journal News.  Consumer Voice was highlighted as being the leading national organization representing consumers on issues related to long-term care and services.  The article features Consumer Voice's key value - including the voice of the consumer - as one of the reasons for our success.  Consumer Voice includes residents and consumers of long-term services and supports in our organization leadership as well as creating opportunities to bring consumers to the policy table.  Also highlighted was Consumer Voice's annual Residents' Rights Month, held every October, and the importance of this year's theme "My Vote Matters."  The Resident's Voice activity gives consumers an opportunity to share their thoughts on the year's theme and to engage in the political conversation.

From the article: "Consumer Voice works closely with a dedicated network of consumer advocates and long-term care ombudsmen across the country on these important issues. The strength of their advocacy is rooted not only in their collaborative efforts, but also in keeping the resident/consumer experience at the forefront of their efforts. Residents’ voices are their compass, and as new policies and practices are introduced and considered in the delivery and financing of long-term care and services, Consumer Voice continues to ask, 'What does this mean for the person receiving those services?'"

Read the full article here.

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CFPB Releases Report and Resource Guide on How Community Partnerships Can Help Fight Elder Financial Abuse

August 24, 2016

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report about counties around the country who have developed community-based efforts to prevent, detect and respond to elder financial exploitation.  Strong collaboration among community stakeholders - like financial institutions, adult protective services, and law enforcement - can be an effective way to protect older residents from financial exploitation.  CFPB's Director Ricard Cordray said, "Hundreds of counties have developed a community-based approach to protect their seniors and retirees from financial exploitation. We’ve learned that an ‘all hands on deck’ strategy can be very effective to fight elder financial fraud. Our new guide and recommendations can help more community stakeholders build these very helpful networks to pool information, expertise, and resources in addressing this growing crisis.”

Read the report here.

In addition to the report, CFPB also created a resource guide and best practices to help other communities create their own protection partnerships to fight elder financial abuse.  View the resource guide here.

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ACL Awards $2.2 Million to Adult Protective Services Systems

August 23, 2016

The Administration for Community Living's (ACL) Administration on Aging has announced $2.2 million in grants to assist 13 state Adult Protective Services (APS) systems in addressing the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older adults and individuals with disabilities.  States awarded grants are: Arizona, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee.  The two-year grants will be used to enhance statewide APS systems, improve practices and data collection, and interface with ACL's National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS).  For more information, read the announcement from ACL.

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Urge Congress to Continue the Money Follows the Person Program

August 22, 2016

"I’m free!"  This is what many people of all ages say when they move out of an institutional setting or nursing facility and back to the community under the federal Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration program.  MFP gives people the right to decide where they live and receive home and community services and supports. It provides assistance, support and funding to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, individuals with physical disabilities, and older adults who want to transition out of an institution or facility to their own home or a community residence.

Since 2005, MFP has assisted more than 51,000 people with moving into a setting of their choice, and has helped 44 states improve access to home and community-based services. In addition, the MFP program provides an important quality framework and data collection and reporting requirements to build a solid state HCBS infrastructure. 

MFP is a program where everyone wins: individuals regain their independence, and state and federal governments save money because it costs less to provide services and supports in the community rather than in an institution.

Yet despite strong bi-partisan support, this crucial program is about to DISAPPEAR. Unless Congress takes action, the MFP program will end on Sept 30, 2016.  This means that fewer people will be able to move back into the community, and state progress and momentum to shift systems from institutional to more cost-effective home and community-based settings will be slowed.  

Tell your members of Congress to continue the Money Follows the Person program.  Send a message by clicking here.  Freedom should be for everyone!

Thank you for your advocacy!

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CFPB Creates Placemats to Help Prevent Elder Fraud

August 18, 2016

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has created placemats to be placed on meal trays across the country to help prevent elder fraud and exploitation.  The placemats provide tips for avoiding scams and can be distributed to a senior center, meal program, or to loved ones.

The placemats are available in English and Spanish and can be ordered for free here.  For more information, read CFPB's blog.

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Infographic About Detecting and Preventing Bullying Among Older Adults

August 17, 2016

Sadly, residents are not always treated with respect nor do they always get the care they need. This infographic was developed by the Health Professionals Press and talks about the factors that lead to bullying, the outcomes of resident-to-resident mistreatment, and how to prevent and respond to these incidents.

   

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CMS Adds New Quality Measures to Nursing Home Compare

August 16, 2016

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services updated the Nursing Home Compare Five-Star Quality Ratings to incorporate new measures that look at successful discharges, emergency visits, and re-hospitalizations. The five new measures include:

  1. Percentage of short-stay residents who were successfully discharged to the community (Medicare claims- and Minimum Data Set (MDS)-based)

  2. Percentage of short-stay residents who have had an outpatient emergency department visit (Medicare claims- and MDS-based)

  3. Percentage of short-stay residents who were rehospitalized after a nursing home admission (Medicare claims- and MDS-based)

  4. Percentage of short-stay residents who made improvements in function (MDS-based)

  5. Percentage of long-stay residents whose ability to move independently worsened (MDS-based)

For more information, visit CMS' website.

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Action Update

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Thank You to Those Who Signed Our Letter to CMS on Arbitration

August 05, 2016

On July 25, the New York Times published a powerful editorial calling on CMS to ban pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts in its final nursing home rules.  These are clauses that require residents to agree to arbitration and sign away their right to a jury trial in the event they suffer injury or abuse while in the facility. The editorial gives us another great opportunity to advocate for strong nursing home regulations. Thank you to all the individuals and organizations who signed onto our letter to CMS calling for the agency to ban pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home agreements once and for all.

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Tell CMS to Ban Pre-Dispute Arbitration in the Final Nursing Home Regulations

July 28, 2016

On July 25, the New York Times published a powerful editorial calling on CMS to ban pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts in its final nursing home rules.  These are clauses that require residents to agree to arbitration and sign away their right to a jury trial in the event they suffer injury or abuse while in the facility. The editorial gives us another great opportunity to advocate for strong nursing home regulations. Please sign on to our letter to CMS calling for the agency to ban pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home agreements once and for all.

Anyone can sign on – local, state, national organizations AND individuals.  Enter your information and submit to us by 5:00 PM ET this Friday, July 29.

For individual sign-ons, click here.

For group sign-ons, click here

Help us send a strong message to CMS that this practice is unfair to consumers and must end now.

Thank you for your advocacy!

What is Pre-dispute Arbitration?

Arbitration is a process in which a dispute – such as a dispute regarding poor care, abuse or neglect – is settled by one or more arbitrators who decide the outcome instead of a jury made up of members of the community. “Pre-dispute” arbitration means that the consumer must agree to arbitration before any dispute arises. 

Pre-dispute arbitration agreements force individuals to make a decision without any information at all about the dispute. This decision must be made at the time of admission, a very stressful time for consumers and their families, when it is difficult to anticipate or even imagine the occurrence of serious harm or poor care. Once signed, pre-dispute, forced arbitration agreements strip individuals of their constitutional right to a trial by jury.

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Participate in the 2016 Consumer Voice Webinar Series!

July 11, 2016

Consumer Voice is hosting an exciting three-part webinar series featuring expert speakers, and important skills, strategies, and advocacy tips on important issues facing long-term care consumers! 

Register for one, two or get a discount when you register for all three webinars!

Webinar #1 – Preventing Avoidable Hospitalizations: A Primer for Consumer Advocates
Tuesday, August 9, 2:00pm – 3:00pm ET
Presenters: Marcia K. Flesner, PhD, RN, Sinclair School of Nursing, University of Missouri and Barbara Frank, B&F Consulting

Webinar #2 – Obtaining Quality Care for Residents with Dementia
Tuesday, September 13, 2:00pm – 3:00pm ET
Presenter: Jonathan Evans, MD

Webinar #3 – Piecing Together Quality Long-Term Care
Tuesday, October 11, 2:00pm – 3:00pm ET
Presenter: Robyn Grant, MSW

Each webinar is $65 and includes the live webinar and webinar recording that can be watched/shown as many times as you'd like.  Register for all three webinars in the series for the discounted price of $175.

Consumer Voice members receive a 10% discount on all webinars.  Email info@theconsumervoice.org for the discount code.

Read descriptions for each webinar and register here.

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Prevent and Protect Residents from Financial Exploitation

June 29, 2016

Many older adults and individuals with disabilities can be targets for financial exploitation, a growing form of abuse.  The resources below provide information, tips and guidance on how to create awareness for this important issue and how to protect residents.

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Protecting Older Americans from Financial Exploitation.  Connecticut State Ombudsman Nancy Shaffer testified.

 

Protecting Residents from Financial Exploitation: How Ombudsmen Can Use the New CFPB Guide in Their Work  
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This webinar discusses the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's new guide for assisted living and nursing facilities entitled Protecting Residents From Financial Exploitation.  The guide was developed to help operators and staff of nursing facilities and assisted living facilities protect residents from financial exploitation through prevention and early intervention, and outlines ways to create awareness, policies and practices to protect residents. In addition to enhancing LTCO advocacy skills regarding the warning signs of financial exploitation and learning about effective strategies to prevent and respond to such abuse, LTCO can share these tips and the guide with facility staff
 
Naomi Karp, Policy Advisor, Consumer Fraud Protection Bureau (CFPB) Office of Older Americans provides background on CFPB and the new guide and detail how long-term care ombudsmen can use this new resource to work with facilities to combat financial exploitation.  Iris Freeman, MSW, William Mitchell College of Law details how one state, Minnesota, developed a state-specific manual in 2010 and will provide tips how to replicate that process in your state.

Tips and Tools for Preventing and Responding to Financial Exploitation in Long-Term Care Facilities 
Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 3:00-4:30 ET

This webinar discusses financial exploitation in long-term care facilities and provides tips and resources for preventing, detecting and reporting financial abuse. Naomi Karp, Policy Advisor, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Office of Older Americans, explains CFPB’s role in the financial protection and education of older adults and shares new resources attendees can use with residents, family members and providers to increase financial literacy and prevent financial exploitation. Ann-Maria Beard, Deputy Director, Office of Supplemental Security Income and Representative Payment Policy of the Social Security Administration discusses the Representative Payee Program, providing an overview of the responsibilities and oversight of representative payees and how attendees can support the rights of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries and report suspicion of misuse of benefits by a representative payee. Additionally, webinar participants discussed a scenario involving potential financial exploitation and shared challenges and best practices related to responding to allegations of financial exploitation. New consumer facts sheets regarding the prevention, detection and reporting of financial exploitation in nursing home and assisted living facilities produced by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (Consumer Voice) for the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) were introduced.

NEW Consumer Voice Fact Sheets

Consumer Factsheets on Financial Exploitation (February 2014)
Developed in part through a grant from the Administration on Aging for the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), these fact sheets discuss the prevention, detection and reporting of financial exploitation in assisted living and nursing homes. There are separate fact sheets for residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes and their family members. The consumer fact sheets provide an overview of residents’ rights and facility responsibilities related to resident finances, tips for protecting themselves and how to report incidents of financial abuse. The fact sheets for family and friends of residents also review residents’ rights and facility responsibilities, highlight warning signs and how to report incidents of financial exploitation.

Assisted Living Facilities

Nursing Homes

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Tell Your Congressperson to Save State Health Insurance Assistance Programs

June 21, 2016

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently passed a Senate Labor-HHS measure which would eliminate State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP).  SHIPs provide millions of people with support comparing coverage options, appealing denials, applying for financial assistance and navigating complex Medicare benefits.  The House Labor-HHS Appropriations Committee hasn't finalized their spending plan, but may do so after July 4th.  Take action now to ensure that the House does not follow the Senate's lead and remove SHIPs.  Tell your member of Congres to oppose the Senate Appropriations Committee's SHIP funding recommendation!  Fill out this easy-to-use form from n4a and Medicare Rights Center to help save this vital program.  For more background on SHIPs, click here.

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June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15, 2016

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).   It’s an opportunity to share information and spread awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation in later life.  Every year an estimated 5 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23 cases go unreported. 

WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elders. The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations (UN) launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, 2006 in an effort to unite communities around the world in raising awareness about elder abuse. For more information, visit the Administration for Community Living's WEAAD website.

Consumer Voice has put together a new elder abuse issue page.  This page provides fact sheets, brochures, and webinars on several aspects of elder abuse, along with additional resources from other organizations.  Plus, the page highlights residents' thoughts on elder abuse and the importance of raising awareness about the issue. 

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OAA Reauthorization Summary, FAQs, and More

June 13, 2016

Information regarding the recent reauthorization of the Older Americans Act is now available on the ACL website. Click here to find the official compilation, frequently asked questions, summary of changes, and more.

Highlights of changes related to the LTCOP, elder abuse, and the funding formula for Titles III B, C & D are below.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

  • Authorizes Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman programs to serve all LTC facility residents, regardless of their age. 711(6)
  • Clarifies that the state LTC Ombudsman is responsible for the fiscal management of the Office of the State LTC Ombudsman. 712(a)(2)
  • Clarifies that LTC Ombudsman programs may work to resolve complaints on behalf of residents unable to communicate their wishes, including those lacking an authorized representative. 712(a)(3)(A)(i)& (a)(5)(vi)
  • Requires state LTC Ombudsmen to ensure that residents have private, unimpeded access to the program. 712(a)(3)(D)
  • Requires LTC Ombudsman programs to actively encourage, and assist in the development of, resident and family councils in long-term care facilities. 712(a)(3)(H)(iii) & (a)(5)(vii)
  • Authorizes LTC Ombudsman programs to serve residents transitioning from a LTC facility to a home-care setting, when feasible. 712(a)(3)(I)
  • Clarifies that the LTC Ombudsman program is considered a “health oversight agency” for purposes of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). 712(b)(3)
  • Applies OAA disclosure provisions to all LTC Ombudsman program information (rather than only “files and records”) and clarifies exceptions for disclosure of information relating to residents unable to communicate their wishes, including those lacking an authorized representative. 712(d)(2)(c)
  • Provides specific examples of individual and organizational conflicts of interest, requiring remediation or removal of such conflicts. 712(f)
  • Requires that each state LTC Ombudsman or his/her designee participate in training provided by the National Ombudsman Resource Center. 712(h)(4)
  • Requires the Director of the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs to collect and analyze promising practices related to responding to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation in long-term care facilities. 201(d)(3)(M)

Elder Abuse

  • Updates definitions of “adult protective services,” “abuse,” “exploitation and financial exploitation,” and “elder justice” to be consistent with the Elder Justice Act. 102(1),(3), (17)&(18)
  • Promotes best practices for responding to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation in long-term care facilities through the Administration on Aging. 201(d)(3)(M)
  • Promotes states’ submission of data concerning elder abuse. 102(3)(A); 721(b)(5)
  • Directs the Administration on Aging to include, as appropriate, training on elder justice, including abuse prevention and screening, for states, area agencies on aging, and service providers. 202(d)(4)(g)
  • Requires area plans to include efforts to increase public awareness of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. 306(a)(6)(H)

Funding Formula for Titles III B, C & D

  • No state shall be allotted less than: 99% of the allotment for the previous year for each of FY2017-FY2019, or 100% of the FY2019 allotment for FY2020 and each subsequent fiscal year. 304(a)(3)(D)

Click here to read more about the reauthorization of OAA and click here to read more information about how the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program provisions in the Older Americans Act will better protect residents of long-term care facilities.

Other Useful Resources:

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Remembering Lou O'Reilly

June 08, 2016

Consumer Voice is saddened by the passing of Lou O'Reilly.  Lou was the founder of Texas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents, a non-profit organization that has made an impact in Texas nursing home care, social welfare and environmental conditions of nursing home residents.  She was on several state legislature committees and lobbied for many bills protecting the rights of nursing home residents.  Lou was a long-time member of Consumer Voice and a former Board member.  Read more here.

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Now Accepting Nominations for 2016 Consumer Voice Leadership Awards!

June 03, 2016

Based on your nominations, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (Consumer Voice) recognizes people who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to improving the lives of long-term care consumers. Individuals and organizations may nominate people for an award. Awards will be presented at our 40th Annual Conference, November 2-5, 2016, in Arlington, Virginia.

There are 3 easy steps to submit a nomination!

  1. Review the award categories and criteria.

  2. Complete the nomination form via SurveyMonkey. Click on the links below to get started!

  3. Submit a letter of recommendation.

Click here to learn more about submitting your nomination.

Click here for a PDF of the nomination form.

Questions? Contact us at info@theconsumervoice.org

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Get a Resident's Voice Activity Toolkit

May 26, 2016

Consumer Voice is pleased to announce the 2016 Resident’s Voice Challenge! Residents are encouraged to pick up their pens, dust off their type writers or use a computer to display their writing or artistic skills by submitting essays, poems, artwork, drawings, or videos related to the theme for Residents' Rights Month 2016 "My Vote Matters".

Residents are asked to imagine they are running for "Resident President" and their platform is long-term care consumers’ rights.  Create a campaign poster or write a stump speech (or record a video of you giving your stump speech).  Get a Resident's Voice Activity Toolkit to participate in the activity.

Learn more about the Resident's Voice Challenge here.

Get a Resident's Voice Activity Toolkit here.

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Watch a Video on Long-Term Care Ombudsmen

May 23, 2016

What is an ombudsman? "It's a resource, it's an advocate, but it's just a phone call away."
In a new video, the Texas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program talked to real residents, family members, and facility staff about the importance of the LTCOP.  Residents and their family members can rely on long-term care ombudsmen to provide support, comfort and advocacy by listening to resident concerns and helping to resolve issues.  Watch the video and learn more about ombudsmen on the National Ombudsman Resource Center's website.

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It's Hurricane Preparedness Week!

May 16, 2016

Hurricane Preparedness Week is a time to prepare for a potential land-fall tropical storm or hurricane.  If you live in an area prone to these types of storms or even areas threatened by dangerous flooding or destructive winds, it's important to take this time to prepare for a dangerous weather event.

The NORC Emergency Preparedness page provides resources for victims, their families and care providers in preparing for or in the aftermath of an emergency event.  Plus, get an Emergency Preparedness Kit from the Consumer Voice store - including a flashlight, NORC Tip Sheets - Being Prepared! Things Ombudsmen Should Do Before, During and After an Emergency; Smart Phone Apps; and Emergency Management Dictionary and Translations; and CMS Emergency Preparedness Checklist.

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Tips for Residents on Theft and Loss in Nursing Homes

May 13, 2016

Under the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, residents have the right to retainpossession of their personal belongings and are entitled to a safe environment free of theftand loss.  Feelings of insecurity, loss of self-esteem, and loss of identity are the end resultof missing or stolen items, including clothing, jewelry, dentures, eyeglasses, and hearingaids.  The right to personal possessions assures a familiar homelike environment whereresidents preserve control over their personal being.  This information sheet from Consumer Voice presents for residents and family members the preventative measures and remedies for a resident’s deprivation of their personal effects.

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Nursing homes starting to offer more individualized menus

May 04, 2016

NORC Director Amity Overall-Laib and nursing home resident and advocate Penny Shaw were quoted in a recent article by the Associated Press. The article highlights how more nursing homes are including individualized menus for the specific preference of their residents. Some nursing homes do not adapt these practices because it is cost prohibitive or because of a lack of staffing. However, experts argue that having dining options increases nursing home residents' quality of life.

Read the article here.

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CMS Publishes Guidance on Providing Services to Justice-Involved Individuals

May 05, 2016

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published guidance to surveyors clarifying requirements for providing services to justice-involved individuals (e.g. those on probation or parole) in skilled nursing facilities.  The guidance seeks to assure high quality care that is consistent with patient rights and safety for all individuals.  It is often a challenge for long-term care ombudsman programs to handle the inconsistencies between probation or parole conditions that apply to some residents and resident rights, especially regarding discharge decisions, right to come and go, and visitors.  This guidance addresses these types of issues.  Read the memo here.

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CMS Publishes Final Rule on Fire Safety

May 04, 2016

CMS has published a final rule on fire safety for certain health care facilities, including long term care facilities.  The provisions in the final rule cover construction, protection and operational features designed to provide safety for Medicare beneficiaries from fire, smoke and panic.  For more information, read the press release from CMS.  The rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but an unofficial version can be found here.

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DOJ Report Finds that South Dakota Unnecessarily Relies on Nursing Facilities to Provide Services for People with Disabilities

May 03, 2016

A new report from the U.S. Department of Justice has found that South Dakota is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Supreme Court's Olmstead v. L.C. decision by unnecessarily relying on nursing facilities to provide services to people with disabilities.  The ADA and Olmstead ruling require states to make services available to people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, regardless of age or type of disability, yet South Dakotans with disabilities do not have meaningful choices to receive services in their homes or communities.  The report showed that thousands of South Dakotans are forced to live in nursing facilities, isolated from their communities, rather than utilize home- and community-based services.  The analysis also found that South Dakota may even have cost savings and be able to serve more people by increasing the state's use of home- and community-based services.  For more information, read the press release, the report and the article in The New York Times.

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CMS Adds Six New Quality Measures to Nursing Home Compare

April 28, 2016

CMS has added six new quality measures to the consumer-based Nursing Home Compare website.  For the first time, CMS has included three quality measures that are not based solely on data that are self-reported by nursing homes. The three measures: rate of rehospitalization, emergency room use, and community discharge among nursing home residents are based on Medicare-claims data submitted by hospitals.   The six new quality measures are:

  1. Percentage of short-stay residents who were successfully discharged to the community (Medicare claims- and MDS-based)

  2. Percentage of short-stay residents who have had an outpatient emergency department visit (Medicare claims- and MDS-based)

  3. Percentage of short-stay residents who were re-hospitalized after a nursing home admission (Medicare claims- and MDS-based)

  4. Percentage of short-stay residents who made improvements in function (MDS-based)

  5. Percentage of long-stay residents whose ability to move independently worsened (MDS-based)

  6. Percentage of long-stay residents who received an antianxiety or hypnotic medication (MDS-based)

Beginning in July 2016, CMS will incorporate all measures, except for the antianxiety/hypnotic medication measure, into the calculation of the Nursing Home Five-Star Quality Ratings.

Visit Nursing Home Compare here.

For more information, read CMS' press release.

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ASPE Releases Report on Function and Characteristics of Unlicensed Care Homes

April 27, 2016

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) have released a report entitled "Understanding Unlicensed Care Homes."  Unlicensed care homes provide room, board and some level of services for two or more unrelated individuals but they are not licensed or certified by the state.  This report sought to understand how unlicensed care homes function as a residential care option, the types of individuals who reside in them, their quality and safety, and the policies that influence them.  Read the report here.

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New York Times Series on Arbitration Finalist for Pulitzer Prize

April 19, 2016

In 2015, the New York Times published a series entitled "Beware the Fine Print" on individual arbitration clauses used in contracts.  The six-part series is now a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting.  Part I, "Arbitration Everywhere, Stacking the Deck of Justice," described how "by inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies...devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices."  Part II, "In Arbitration, a 'Privatization of the Justice System'" looked at specific cases where "thousands of businesses across the country...have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice.  There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients."  To read the all parts of the series, click here.

Consumer Voice is working to ban the use of forced arbitration agreements in long-term care facility admission contracts.  These types of pre-dispute arbitration agreements place consumers at a disadvantage during the admissions process, strip consumers of their constitutional right to a trial by jury, deny consumers the benefits and advantages of a court of law, and place consumers at increased risk.  For more information, view the Consumer Voice webpage on this issue.

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National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16th

April 15, 2016

Advance care planning is making decisions about the care you would want to receive if you become unable to speak for yourself. These are your decisions to make, regardless of what you choose for your care, and the decisions are based on your personal values, preferences, and discussions with your loved ones.

National Healthcare Decisions Day is tomorrow April 16. Join Consumer Voice and Americans across the country in making future healthcare decisions known to family, friends and healthcare providers. Share your wishes and complete your advance directive, because your decisions matter! Consider, discuss, and document your advance healthcare wishes so they will be followed in the future. Learn more about National Healthcare Decisions Day and get free information at www.nhdd.org.

Plus, Consumer Voice created a new issue page for resources and information on advance care planning.

Visit NORC's website for special resources for long-term care ombudsmen.

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Call for Session Proposals for the 2016 Consumer Voice Annual Conference

April 11, 2016

We invite you to submit a proposal for a concurrent session at the 2016 Consumer Voice Annual Conference. Sessions that include more than one perspective or speakers from more than one program are encouraged.

Proposal Guidelines:

  • The Conference will be November 2-5, 2016 at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel in Arlington, VA.  The bulk of workshops will be November 3-5.
  • All proposals must include speaker names, contact info, and a short bio of credentials
  • All speakers must register and pay the speaker rate by August 1, 2016.
  • Travel expenses cannot be reimbursed.
  • Speakers must provide electronic versions of any PowerPoint’s, reference materials, or handouts by October 15, 2016.
  • Speakers are responsible for bringing handouts if any will be used. PowerPoint capability will be available in all workshop rooms (screen, projector, computer). If you require additional AV support, there may be an additional charge.
  • Proposals may be submitted for more than one session, but you must submit a separate form for each proposal.
  • Sessions are 90 minutes in length.

For more information and guidelines on submitting a proposal, click here.

All proposals must be received by May 6, 2016 to be considered.

Submit proposals as Word or PDF documents to the Consumer Voice at info@theconsumervoice.org.

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U.S. Senate Approves Older Americans Act Reauthorization

April 08, 2016

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill to reauthorize the Older Americans Act.  House-amended S. 192, the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2015, will now be sent to President Obama to sign.  Reauthorization of the bill is long overdue; authorization expired in 2011. 

Consumer Voice applauds the passage of the Reauthorization of OAA as it will help older adults age with independence and dignity in their homes and communities, and protect elders in long-term care facilities and other settings.  The Older Americans Act (OAA), enacted in 1965, is the primary vehicle for services and funding in every state that support the dignity and welfare of individuals age 60 and older. These services include home-and-community based services; nutritional programs; health promotion and disease prevention activities for seniors; and programs that protect vulnerable seniors, such as the long-term care ombudsman program.  

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is authorized under the Older Americans Act and administered at the state level. It provides residents of long-term care facilities with access to effective advocacy in order to ensure that they receive the quality of care and quality of life they deserve and are entitled to by law. House Bill S.192 strengthens and improves this program’s effectiveness in a number of important ways. It clarifies both organizational and individual conflicts of interest within the program; improves resident access to ombudsmen; better protects the confidentiality of ombudsman information; ensures that State Ombudsmen receive ongoing training; and permits ombudsmen, when feasible, to continue to serve residents transitioning from a long-term care facility to a home care setting. Furthermore, House Bill S.192 takes an important step toward better ensuring quality home care by directing the Assistant Secretary of Aging to develop a consumer-friendly tool, when possible, to assist older individuals and their families in choosing home and community-based services.

Thank you to all who advocated many times over the past five years to help achieve the passage of this important bill!

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Department of Labor Releases Guide for Consumers and Families on the Fair Labor Standards Act

April 07, 2016

The Department of Labor has developed a user-friendly guide entitled "Paying Minimum Wage and Overtime to Home Care Workers: A Guide for Consumers and their Families to the Fair Labor Standards Act." The guide explains who needs to follow the FLSA rules and how to follow them.  The guide provides examples of situations involving hiring a home care worker directly, using a home care agency, and arranging care through a self-directed program.  It discusses paid providers who are family members of the consumer and who are live-in workers. View the guide here.

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National Center on Elder Abuse Releases Report on State Elder Abuse Working Groups

April 07, 2016

"State Elder Abuse Working Groups: A Review and Comparison of 15 State Working Groups", compares existing elder abuse working groups from 15 states based on their establishment, purpose, and current status. This report was a collaboration between the NCEA and Splaine Consulting.  Click here for the Executive Summary.  Read the full report here.

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The Department of Justice Launches 10 Regional Elder Justice Task Forces

March 31, 2016

The Department of Justice announced the launch of 10 regional Elder Justice Task Forces. These teams will bring together federal, state and local prosecutors, law enforcement, and agencies that provide services to the elderly to coordinate and enhance efforts to pursue nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care. According to Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery, “All too often we have found nursing home owners or operators put their own economic gain before the needs of their residents. These task forces will help ensure that we are working closely with all relevant parties to protect the elderly.” 

The Elder Justice Task Forces will include representatives from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, state Medicaid Fraud Control Units, state and local prosecutors’ offices, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), state Adult Protective Services agencies, Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs, and law enforcement. These agencies were picked to be part of the Elder Justice Task Force because they are among those that have a specific expertise in their line of work.

The multi-disciplinary nature of the task forces will assist in identifying nursing facilities that provide grossly substandard care, drawing on the various team members’ access to an array of information and knowledge in the regions and communities where nursing facilities operate. In addition, bringing these agencies together will provide more tools to address complaints about nursing homes or other long-term care providers. Having federal, state and local agencies working together will allow the task forces to find the most effective response for each particular situation.

The 10 Elder Justice Task Forces will be launched in the following Districts: Northern District of California, Northern District of Georgia, District of Kansas, Western District of Kentucky, Northern District of Iowa, District of Maryland, Southern District of Ohio, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Tennessee and the Western District of Washington.

To read the press release in its entirety click here. To learn more about the Justice Department’s Elder Justice Initiative visit http://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/.

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CMS Memorandum on Implementation of required electronic submission of staffing data

March 22, 2016

CMS issued a memorandum related to Electronic Staffing Data Submission (Payroll-Based Journal – PBJ).  The purpose of the memo is to remind providers about the mandatory reporting period starting on July 1, and to encourage facilities to submit data during the voluntary period.  The memorandum includes instructions on how to register and submit data.  It also notifies stakeholders of the posting of the revised and final PBJ policy manual and related information.  Read the memorandum here.

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Action Update

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Older Americans Act Passes in the House

March 22, 2016

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016!  After months of negotiations between House members on the House Education and Workforce Committee, an agreement has been reached on the House's version of the Senate-passed S.192 Older Americans Act (OAA) bill and includes provisions that would make the long-term care ombudsman program more effective and help long-term care consumers.  The bill will reauthorize the current OAA, which expired in 2011.

House S.192 includes provisions clarifying both organizational and individual conflicts of interest within the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program; improving resident access to ombudsmen; better protecting the confidentiality of ombudsman information; ensuring that State Ombudsmen receive ongoing training; and, permitting ombudsmen, when feasible, to continue to serve residents transitioning from a long-term care facility to a home care setting. 

For more information about Older Americans Act Reauthorization, visit the issue page.

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Help Reauthorize the Older Americans Act: Ask Your U.S. Representative to Vote Yes

March 21, 2016

UPDATE: The Older Americans Act has passed in the House!

After six months of negotiations between House majority leaders on the House Education and Workforce Committee, an agreement has been reached on the House's version of the Senate-passed S.192 Older Americans Act (OAA) law and includes provisions that would make the long-term care ombudsman program more effective and help long-term care consumers. For more information, see below. 

The bill would reauthorize the OAA. Authorization expired on 2011 and reauthorization is long overdue. 

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

1. Contact your Representative's Office and ask for the staff person who handles Older Americans Act issues. You can reach them through the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121.

2. Ask them to vote in favor of the Reauthorization bill, which will help older adults age with independence and dignity in their homes and communities, and protect elders in long-term care facilities and other settings.

3. Ask others in your network to do the same!  

More information about the bill

Changes in Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program: Click here to compare the House bill with the Ombudsman provisions of the current Older Americans Act. 

House S.192 includes provisions clarifying both organizational and individual conflicts of interest within the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program; improving resident access to ombudsmen; better protecting the confidentiality of ombudsman information; ensuring that State Ombudsmen receive ongoing training; and, permitting ombudsmen, when feasible, to continue to serve residents transitioning from a long-term care facility to a home care setting. 

What the House bill includes: Click here for a bill summary. The main difference between the Senate bill (passed July 16, 2015) and the House bill is that the House bill includes specific authorization levels for funding that in general would increase 6.777 percent over three years and changes to the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) program. 

Consumer Voice submitted a letter in support of the bill.


As always, thank you for your advocacy!

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New Podcast Series on Dying in America

March 15, 2016

A new podcast series for healthcare professionals, sponsored by the National Academy of Medicine, will review the 2015 Institute of Medicine report "Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life."  The podcast will highlight various aspects of end-of-life care and will cover topics such as palliative care, interdisciplinary teamwork, clinician-patient communication and advance care planning, and policies and payment systems for care near the end of life.  Learn more about "Dying in America: Conversations About Care at the End of Life" here.  The podcast can be found on iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Stitcher, iTunes and ReachMD's website.

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NY State Comptroller's Office Report Finds that Improvements Are Needed in Nursing Home Enforcement

March 08, 2016

Laurie Kash's experience with her mother's poor care at a nursing home led her to take her case the New York State Comptroller's Office.  The Office performed a subsequent audit that called for improvements in the enforcement of nursing home violations.

Laurie Kash's mother was admitted into a New York nursing home for temporary care, yet just three weeks later she had become a paraplegic.  Kash's mother was injured because of a fall that occurred when a nurse failed to follow a physician's order detailed in her care plan.  Her consequent neurological deterioration and pain were dismissed.  By the time her paralysis was diagnosed, by a family member who was a heart surgeon, her spinal cord injury was irreparable. She spent the remaining three years of her life in the nursing home, confined to a wheelchair.
 
Kash filed a complaint with the New York Department of Health (DOH), but after six investigations, the DOH dismissed most of the concerns.  Kash and her family filed a lawsuit against the facility and implored the state to act, but the DOH took no significant action.  Kash took the case to the New York State Comptroller's Office along with advocates at Long Term Care Community Coalition, NY Statewide Senior Action Council, New Yorkers for Patient and Family Empowerment, and the Gray Panthers, and the Comptroller agreed to perform an Audit and Policy Analysis of DOH's Nursing Home Oversight agency.  (The last such analysis was administered in 1999.)  
 
The State Comptroller’s Office’s report found that nursing homes were often cited repeatedly for problems with limited consequences and nursing home fines were delayed for up to six years.  It called for improvements in the enforcement of nursing home violations.  Recently Laurie Kash, along with representatives of the advocacy organizations identified above, spoke at the Comptroller’s press conference regarding the audit.  Read the report, watch a video clip of the press conference and learn more about Ms. Kash’s story here.

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NPR Covers Nursing Home Evictions

February 25, 2016

On Thursday, February 25, NPR's Morning Edition included a story about nursing home evictions, including cases when facilities refuse to take back residents who were hospitalized. Consumer Voice's Robyn Grant, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, was interviewed for the story.

Click here to listen to Morning Edition on NPR.  

And check out the range of resources available from the Consumer Voice on transfer and discharge by visiting our new issue page.

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New Issue Page on Transfer-Discharge

February 25, 2016

Find important resources on involuntary and voluntary transfers or discharges from a nursing home on the new Consumer Voice issue page.

The threat of transfer or discharge from a nursing home can be both frightening and stressful for residents and their families. Too often, a facility may respond to resident’s difficulties or increasing need for care or repeated questions or complaints from family members by transferring or discharging the resident.  Learn about your rights and find helpful resources on involuntary transfer or discharge.

Many consumers feel that living at home sustains their independence, dignity, and freedom of choice. Find resources and consumer perspectives on transitioning from a nursing home back into your home.

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Announcing New Leadership at Consumer Voice

February 18, 2016

Lori Smetanka Named Executive Director of Consumer Voice

The Governing Board of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has unanimously selected Lori Smetanka, JD, as Executive Director, effective immediately.  Lori has been serving as Interim Executive Director since October 2015.

“Lori’s leadership skills and respect in the advocacy community, along with her history with Consumer Voice, make her the right person to lead the organization into the future,” said Michael Koenig, Consumer Voice Governing Board President.  “We believe she has the organizational management skills and long-term care program and policy expertise that will enhance the important work of Consumer Voice. Lori is a dedicated advocate who is committed to addressing the complex long-term care issues faced by consumers.”

Smetanka has been the Director of the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, housed at Consumer Voice, since 2004.  Prior to that, she served as Consumer Voice’s Law and Policy Specialist since 1994.

Amity Overall Laib to Lead National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center

Amity Overall Laib has been chosen as Director of the National LTC Ombudsman Resource Center, housed at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.  “Amity is an excellent choice to lead the Ombudsman Resource Center,” said Consumer Voice Executive Director Lori Smetanka, adding, “Her knowledge of the ombudsman program, her program management and training skills, and her commitment to improving the lives of those receiving long-term services and supports are just right for this important position.”

Overall Laib has been the Manager for Program and Policy with the Ombudsman Resource Center since 2010. Her previous experience included that of Staff Ombudsman and Managing Local Ombudsman for the Houston-Galveston Area Council/Area Agency on Aging, Houston, TX.   She is also a past Board member of the National Association of Local Long-Term Care Ombudsmen.

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Resident-to-Resident Elder Mistreatment in Nursing Homes: Findings from the First Prevalence Study

February 03, 2016

This webinar, hosted by Consumer Voice in collaboration with the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), discusses resident-to-resident mistreatment and how to prevent and respond to these incidents. 

Dr. Karl Pillemer, Director, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College, shared findings, recommendations, and best practices from his research regarding the prevalence of resident-to-resident elder mistreatment in nursing facilities. Consumer Voice staff shared information and resources to help increase awareness of these incidents and demonstrate how individualized care is critical in preventing and responding to resident-to-resident mistreatment.

The slides for this webinar can be downloaded as a PDF.

Additional Resources

Brochure for Consumers on Resident Mistreatment
This brochure (and large font fact sheet), a product produced by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care in collaboration with the National Center on Elder Abuse, identifies mistreatment, shares information about an individual’s rights, and offers resources where they can seek help. The brochure and large font fact sheet can be purchased in bulk from the Consumer Voice store.
 
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Advocacy: Resident-to-Resident Aggression (Technical Assistance Brief)
Resident-to-resident aggression is a serious issue that has a significant negative impact on all residents involved, but incidents are often not reported and investigated. The purpose of this brief is to provide an overview of resident-to-resident aggression in order to assist Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) programs in effectively responding to complaints involving resident-to-resident aggression, as well as help prevent RRA and reduce the prevalence of these incidents. Click here to view the brief.

Hebrew Home at Riverdale- Research Division R-REM Online Training

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Tell Congress to Restore Long-Term Care Consumers' Rights!

January 11, 2016

Consumer Voice has launched a petition asking the U.S. Congress to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act (H.R. 2087; S. 1133), legislation that would ban the use of pre-dispute, forced arbitration agreements in consumer contracts. These are agreements that residents or their loved ones must sign when entering into a nursing home or assisted living facility. Once signed, pre-dispute, forced arbitration agreements strip individuals of their constitutional right to a trial by jury should any dispute arise in the future regarding poor care, abuse or neglect.

Consumer Voice has already urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to ban the use of these clauses in nursing home contracts. Now they are calling on Congress to take action on this important issue. You can help by signing on to this petition and sharing it with your family members, colleagues and friends. You can go here to add your name to this effort.

For information about forced arbitration agreements in long-term care facility contracts, visit the Consumer Voice webpage on this issue.

Thank you for your advocacy!

 
 

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Increase in Federal Fines Nursing Facilities Pay for Violating Nursing Home Reform Law

November 23, 2015

A provision of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (signed by President Obama on November 2nd) will increase the amounts of federal fines that nursing facilities may be required to pay for violating the Nursing Home Reform Law.  The provision amends the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 to eliminate the exemption of programs under the Social Security Act (including Medicare and Medicaid).  The section requires the heads of federal agencies to adjust civil monetary penalties through interim final rulemaking with the increased penalties effective no later than August 1, 2016, and thereafter, to make cost-of-living adjustments to federal penalties.  These federal fines have not been increased in 20 years.  For more information, read the alert from the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

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Consumer Voice Interim Executive Director Lori Smetanka Quoted in New York Times Article on Residential Care for Elderly

November 24, 2015

A recent article in The New York Times highlighted the rise of small residential homes, like Green House, as an alternative to nursing homes.  Small residences for the elderly are designed to feel more home-like and offer more customized care than a nursing home.  Another alternative to nursing homes is residential care, also known as adult foster care, which are often single-family homes adapted for elder care.  Consumer VoiceInterim Executive Director Lori Smetanka was interviewed for the article and pointed out that residential care home quality varies widely and that there is less oversight by regulators than at nursing homes.  Read the full New York Times article here.

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Action Update

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Additional Federal Funding Secured for Certain Aging Programs in 2016

December 22, 2015

On December 18th, 2015, the U.S. Congress approved the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill, legislation that will continue the funding of federal programs through Fiscal Year 2016. This bill, which has since been signed into law, will increase funding for elder justice programs as well as Alzheimer's research in the coming year. Specifically, it will double the amount of funding provided for the Elder Justice Initiative from $4 million to $8 million and increase funding to $350 million for Alzheimer's disease clinical research at the National Institute on Aging. The additional funds provided for the Elder Justice Initiative will continue to support the creation of an Adult Protective Services (APS) National Data System and the support of evidence-based research regarding elder abuse. These appropriations also contain new increases for caregiver support activities through the National Family Caregiver Support Program ($5 million) and Native American caregiver support ($1.5 million).

However, programs such as the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and Elder Rights Support Activities funded under the Older Americans Act will remain at Fiscal Year 2015 levels ($20.6 million and $3.8 million respectively). In addition, there is no additional funding for survey and certification activities at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which includes the oversight and inspection of nursing homes.

We thank all of you who reached out to your members of Congress asking them to increase funding for programs benefiting long-term care consumers. Consumer Voice will continue to advocate for additional appropriations for these underfunded programs in the next fiscal year. To view the text of the final FY 2016 appropriations bill, click here.

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