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Texas Is Putting Troubled Nursing Homes on Notice

The Texas Tribune

SOURCE: THE TEXAS TRIBUNE


By Marissa Evans

Texas nursing homes beware: The state’s tolerance for mistakes is dropping fast.

In September, a new state law takes effect that will make it more difficult for long-term care facilities cited for repeat violations to avoid hefty fines from regulators.

It’s an effort by legislators and advocates for the aging to crack down on bad seeds in the nursing home industry. And there are a lot of them.

A January AARP Texas report found the quality of the state’s nursing homes on average was “shamefully poor.”

More than half of them received just one or two stars out of a possible five in the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rating system, according to a 2015 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Aging and Disability Services, which regulates long-term care facilities, identified some 17,466 violations over the course of fiscal year 2015, but only took enforcement action — everything from fines to license revocations and denials — in 40 cases.

State Sen. Charles Schwertner, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, sought to change this in the last legislative session. He filed a bill that, among other things, gives the state the ability to fine repeat offender nursing homes without first having a chance to fix violations.

His bill — eliminating a so-called “right to correct” loophole for the most serious offenses — passed the Senate but never made it out of the House, and eventually got attached as an amendment to another successful health care bill.

Schwertner said in April that the state “needs to send a clear and unambiguous message that we’re serious about protecting our most vulnerable citizens from abuse and neglect.”

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