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26 posts categorized "Nursing Facilities"

March 01, 2013

OIG review finds about 1/3 of all Medicare nursing home stays had inadequate care, care planning or discharge planning

OIGAs part of the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General's current focus on nursing facilities, the OIG recently released a report entitled: Skilled Nursing Facilities Often Fail To Meet Care Planning and Discharge Planning Requirements.

From the OIG summary:

Skilled nursing facilities (SNF) are required to develop a care plan for each beneficiary and provide services in accordance with the care plan, as well as to plan for each beneficiary's discharge. These requirements are essential to ensuring that beneficiaries receive appropriate care and safely transition from one care setting to another. Several OIG studies and investigations found that SNFs had deficiencies in quality of care, did not develop appropriate care plans, and failed to provide adequate care to beneficiaries. In fiscal year 2012, Medicare paid $32.2 billion for SNF services. This study is part of a larger body of work about SNF payments and quality of care.


For 37 percent of stays, SNFs did not develop care plans that met requirements or did not provide services in accordance with care plans. For 31 percent of stays, SNFs did not meet discharge planning requirements. Medicare paid approximately $5.1 billion for stays in which SNFs did not meet these quality-of-care requirements. Additionally, reviewers found examples of poor quality care related to wound care, medication management, and therapy. These findings raise concerns about what Medicare is paying for. They also demonstrate that SNF oversight needs to be strengthened to ensure that SNFs perform appropriate care planning and discharge planning.

(Emphasis added.)

The OIG found, and CMS agreed, that CMS administrative enforcement efforts need to be beefed up on care planning and discharge planning, and that payment for services needed to be more closely tied to quality of services.

The negative findings implicate about 1/3 of skilled nursing facility stays, and over 15% of Medicare payment for skilled nursing facility stays.

In other arenas where health care providers are found to be out of compliance with Medicare conditions of participation, the Department of Justice tends to initiate actions under the False Claims Act to recover Medicare payments. (One example that leaps to mind involves the physician supervision requirements for diagnostic imaging under the OPPS rule.) Clearly, recoupment of $5.1 billion per year would be disastrous for the nursing facility sector, and since the OIG's recommendations included a mandate to clarify the regulations it is an unlikely result of this report. However, nursing facility operators should take note of this report and begin to address these areas of concern sooner rather than later.

The current report comes on the heels of a report issued late last year highlighting Medicare billing errors by nursing facilities that resulted in overpayments of $1.5 billion in 2009.  CMS committed to take appropriate action following receipt of that report, which could include recoupment of overpayments.

The OIG is currently looking at adverse events in skilled nursing facilities, which will be the subject of an upcoming report.

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting 

November 21, 2012

Engage With Grace

As patients, as family members, as friends, as health care providers, we have all faced end-of-life issues at one time or another, and we will face them again. And again. 

Having been through this process twice in the past year, I can only repeat that it is important to have The Talk, to help ensure that your family members' and friends' wishes about end-of-life care are clear, are documented and, as a result, are followed. If it helps to get the conversation going, use the Five Questions in the slide at the end of this post. 

Download your copies of the Massachusetts health care proxy form or other states' proxy or living will forms -- and add specific instructions about nutrition, hydration, and anything else that is important to you so that everything is crystal clear.  Having the conversation is a starting point; we all need to follow through and make sure that our loved ones' wishes are documented, placed in medical records, discussed with physicians and other caregivers, and honored.

And with that I turn it over to @engagewithgrace for #blogrally12 (the latest edition from a group of us kickstarted by Alexandra Drane, Matthew Holt and Paul Levy.) If you blog, consider copying the rest of this post, and putting it up now through the end of Thanksgiving weekend. 

- O -

One of our favorite things we ever heard Steve Jobs say is… ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.’

We love it for three reasons:

1) It reminds all of us that living with intention is one of the most important things we can do.
2) It reminds all of us that one day will be our last.
3) It’s a great example of how Steve Jobs just made most things (even things about death – even things he was quoting) sound better.

Most of us do pretty well with the living with intention part – but the dying thing? Not so much.

And maybe that doesn’t bother us so much as individuals because heck, we’re not going to die anyway!! That’s one of those things that happens to other people….

Then one day it does – happen to someone else. But it’s someone that we love. And everything about our perspective on end of life changes.

If you haven’t personally had the experience of seeing or helping a loved one navigate the incredible complexities of terminal illness, then just ask someone who has. Chances are nearly 3 out of 4 of those stories will be bad ones – involving actions and decisions that were at odds with that person’s values. And the worst part about it? Most of this mess is unintentional – no one is deliberately trying to make anyone else suffer – it’s just that few of us are taking the time to figure out our own preferences for what we’d like when our time is near, making sure those preferences are known, and appointing someone to advocate on our behalf.

Goodness, you might be wondering, just what are we getting at and why are we keeping you from stretching out on the couch preparing your belly for onslaught?

Thanksgiving is a time for gathering, for communing, and for thinking hard together with friends and family about the things that matter. Here’s the crazy thing - in the wake of one of the most intense political seasons in recent history, one of the safest topics to debate around the table this year might just be that one last taboo: end of life planning. And you know what? It’s also one of the most important.

Here’s one debate nobody wants to have – deciding on behalf of a loved one how to handle tough decisions at the end of their life. And there is no greater gift you can give your loved ones than saving them from that agony. So let’s take that off the table right now, this weekend. Know what you want at the end of your life; know the preferences of your loved ones. Print out this one slide with just these five questions on it.

Have the conversation with your family. Now. Not a year from now, not when you or a loved one are diagnosed with something, not at the bedside of a mother or a father or a sibling or a life-long partner…but NOW. Have it this Thanksgiving when you are gathered together as a family, with your loved ones. Why? Because now is when it matters. This is the conversation to have when you don’t need to have it. And, believe it or not, when it’s a hypothetical conversation – you might even find it fascinating. We find sharing almost everything else about ourselves fascinating – why not this, too? And then, one day, when the real stuff happens? You’ll be ready.

Doing end of life better is important for all of us. And the good news is that for all the squeamishness we think people have around this issue, the tide is changing, and more and more people are realizing that as a country dedicated to living with great intention – we need to apply that same sense of purpose and honor to how we die.

One day, Rosa Parks refused to move her seat on a bus in Montgomery County, Alabama. Others had before. Why was this day different? Because her story tapped into a million other stories that together sparked a revolution that changed the course of history.

Each of us has a story – it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We work so hard to design a beautiful life – spend the time to design a beautiful end, too. Know the answers to just these five questions for yourself, and for your loved ones. Commit to advocating for each other. Then pass it on. Let’s start a revolution.

Engage with Grace.

Engage With Grace

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

December 28, 2009

Health Reform: What's a Provider to Do?

What should health care providers be doing in anticipation of the likely passage of an historic health reform bill?  There are at least three possibilities: (1) Lament the passing of the good old days and oppose it; (2) Insist that it isn't good enough because it is lacking some key provision (tort reform; SGR replacement; robust public option); or (3) Embrace it, because incrementalism works, and prepare for what's coming down the pike.

As you may guess, I would recommend taking the third approach, which requires focused preparation for the road that lies ahead.  So, what is a provider to do?

In the future, there will be pilots, demonstrations and mainstream programs trying to do more with less: providing health insurance and health care services to more people, with effectively fewer dollars per capita.  Payors -- be they public sector or private sector -- will therefore be squeezing providers.  The House and Senate versions of the health reform bill are equally clear on this point.  Providers therefore need to be proactive in preparing themselves to provide high-quality health care services at competitive rates.Instead of simply resigning themselves to negotiating percentage discounts off of current rates of payment, all providers need to be prepared to negotiate global payments, pay for performance deals, quality incentives and more -- as some forward-thinking provider organizations have been doing for some years now.

In order to be able to negotiate these terms effectively, providers must have a good handle on their own cost structure, and must begin to work at developing broader alliances of providers so as to be better positioned for negotiations with public and private payors.

In my years of experience in working with health care providers at that moment -- the point in time when folks with otherwise disparate interests realize the tremendous value of working together effectively in order to simultaneously promote better clinical outcomes for patients and better financial outcomes for providers -- I am always heartened by the epiphanies of the providers who realize that a new approach, or a new structure, can take them beyond their historical, positional, sometimes defensive attitudes, and into a future that they are able to shape and help define.

I look forward to working with more providers and provider organizations at this critical juncture so that they can be prepared for the future that will soon be upon us, and so that they can have a hand in crafting that future.

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

November 02, 2009

Health Law Basics Plus: Two-day seminar in Boston this week

Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education puts on its annual two-day extravaganza introduction to health law this week (November 4-5).  I'll be speaking on post-acute care, and there is an all-star panel of speakers filling out the entire two days.  If you are -- as they used to say  -- within the sound of my voice and have an interest, please come on down.  Bring your friends and neighbors.  You can find more information on topics, speakers and and registration on the MCLE Health Law Basics Plus page. 

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

September 25, 2009

HITECH Act security breach rules now effective; federales give a six-month pass. Now's the time to kick compliance efforts into high gear

Two key Son of HIPAA rules mandated by the HITECH Act are now effective.  Both the FTC and HHS have finalized their security breach notification requirements and have assured the regulated community that they have six months to get their collective houses in order.

Please take the time to peruse both the HHS Son of HIPAA security breach notification rule and the FTC Son of HIPAA security breach notification rule.  I discussed the impact of the breach notification rules and their enforcement when they were issued as "guidance" and draft regs in April at HealthCamp Boston and will be posting more information about them in the near future.

A few points to consider for now:

  • The HHS breach notification rule layers encryption standards -- how to render health information "unusable, unreadable or indecipherable" -- for data at rest, data in use and data in motion, on top of the HIPAA privacy and securty rules.
  • Encryption is not required, but a security breach with respect to non-encrypted data triggers public notice requirements (i.e., alert the media) in addition to data subject notice requirements.
  • The FTC rules widen the net, imposing HIPAA-"covered-entity"-like obligations on business associates including, e.g., PHR vendors and other non-covered-entity repositories of health information. 
  • As an aside, greater regulation of other business associates under HIPAA will be effective in February; business associates will have to implement policies and procedures similar to those now required only of covered entities.
  • Enforcement will be ratcheted up after six months.  Greater sanctions are available for regulators to impose, and the FTC is a tougher enforcer than HHS has been on the HIPAA front to date.

With all this in mind, now is the time to examine policies and procedures, update them to comply with new rules -- Son of HIPAA rules and related/overlapping FTC Red Flag Rules (effective November 1) and state data security rules -- train staff to follow the policies and procedures consistently, and communicate commitment to these standards to your various consituencies: patients, other health care providers, business partners, etc. 

The Harlow Group LLC stands ready to assist covered entities and PHR providers in assessing the regulatory landscape, conducting an audit of current policies and procedures, and moving from a gap analysis to developing a fully compliant program and staying ahead of the curve going forward.  Please be in touch to learn more about our approach.

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

July 15, 2009

Red Flags Rule: The FTC piles on, because HIPAA, ARRA and overlapping state laws just weren't enough

Update 5/28/10:  Red Flags? Nah ... nothin' but blue skies.  The FTC delays implementation of the Red Flags Rule yet again, to December 31.

Update 11/3/09:  The FTC announced that implementation of the Red Flags Rule will be delayed once more, this time until June 1, 2010.  The announcement came on the heels of losing a court case to the American Bar Association -- the court ruled that the rule does not apply to lawyers -- and on the heels of a legislative attempt to bar its applicability to small health care, accounting and legal practices.  Stay tuned.  

Update 7/29/09:  The FTC announced today that implementation of the Red Flags Rule will be delayed once again, this time til November 1, 2009.  The agency promises to roll out additional information targeted at low-risk entities covered under the rule.  Thus far, nothing has changed with respect to the rule and its ultimate effect, so organizations subject to the rule should take the extra time to assess their compliance needs and implement their plans in advance of November 1.

After a couple of delays, the FTC Red Flags Rule will be effective August 1, 2009.  This rule requires "creditors" under certain "covered accounts" to maintain a heightened alertness to numerous categories of "red flags" that may indicate that the consumer who is the rightful account holder is the victim of identity theft.  If a red flag is triggered, the creditor must take steps to notify the consumer and correct any inappropriate information included the creditor's records.

As you probably already know, the FTC is extending its reach with this rule (among others) into the health care sector.  (Cf. the FTC's role in enforcing certain Son of HIPAA provisions.)  The AMA has all but dropped a draft complaint on the FTC's desk, citing assorted legal precedents in its correspondence with the FTC arguing that the Red Flags Rule should not apply to physician practices.  The FTC is unmoved -- except to the extent that it has been willing to delay the effective date twice (from November 2008 to May 2009 to August 2009).

At any rate, the August 1 effective date is around the corner, and affected health care entities need to develop and implement compliance plans now, if they haven't already.  (Even the AMA says so, and has published guidance and a sample policy for members.)

A few more general comments before stepping back and examining the language of the rule and its applicability to health care providers.

The federales are taking something of a common-sense approach here, recognizing that a compliance plan needs to be tailored to the specific entity, the nature of its "covered accounts" and its operations.  Bank of America, N.A. and Springfield Medical Associates, P.C. will have very different compliance plans, because their potential red flags and the potential risks are vastly different.

Affected health care providers need to understand that the Red Flag Rule requirements overlap with HIPAA and state privacy law requirements (and looming Son of HIPAA requirements in ARRA), but will not be satisfied by implementation of existing privacy policies and compliance plans.  Review of the intersection of existing policies and procedures with the new rule's requirements is the first order of business.

As with any other new regulatory scheme, preparing a compliance plan and putting it on the shelf won't cut it.  The rule calls for regular monitoring of the plan and issues that arise by a senior manager.  Furthermore, best practices would dictate the training of staff to deal with individual issues and, most importantly, with the affected consumers.

Even if not clearly subject to the Red Flags Rule, providers should undertake to comply, for a couple of interrelated reasons:

  • Good patient PR.  Data security is top of mind these days.  Much of the effort required under the rule should be expended anyway simply to respond to market pressures calling for improved data security.
  • Potential liability.  The creative trial attorney will seek to use the Red Flags Rule as establishing a standard of care for the stewardship of personal information.  The incensed jury will go along.  The health care provider caught in the middle between thieves and victims may be the only perceived deep pocket available.

OK, so what is a "creditor" and what is a "covered account?"

Any entity that accepts payment other than payment in full at the time of service is a creditor.  Health care providers that go the cash-on-the-barrelhead route aren't creditors; all others are creditors.

The FTC Guide defines covered accounts as follows: either

  • a consumer account you offer your customers that’s primarily for personal, family, or household purposes that involves or is designed to permit multiple payments or transactions; or
  • any other account that a financial institution or creditor offers or maintains for which there is a reasonably foreseeable risk to customers or to the safety and soundness of the financial institution or creditor from identity theft, including financial, operational, compliance, reputation, or litigation risks.” Examples include small business accounts, sole proprietorship accounts, or single transaction consumer accounts that may be vulnerable to identity theft. Unlike consumer accounts designed to permit multiple payments or transactions – they always are “covered accounts” under the Rule – other types of accounts are “covered accounts” only if the risk of identity theft is reasonably foreseeable.

Any creditor with covered accounts must have a red flags rule compliance plan in place with policies and procedures for dealing with "red flags" -- i.e., signs that personal information may have been compromised.  The World Privacy Forum suggests that the following red flags are the ones most applicable in the health care context:

• A complaint or question from a patient based on the patient’s receipt of:
   o a bill for another individual
   o a bill for a product or service that the patient denies receiving
   o a bill from a health care provider that the patient never patronized or
   o a notice of insurance benefits (or Explanation of Benefits) for health services never received.
• Records showing medical treatment that is inconsistent with a physical examination or with a medical history as reported by the patient.
• A complaint or question from a patient about the receipt of a collection notice from a bill collector.
• A patient or insurance company report that coverage for legitimate hospital stays is denied because insurance benefits have been depleted or a lifetime cap has been reached.
• A complaint or question from a patient about information added to a credit report by a health care provider or insurer.
• A dispute of a bill by a patient who claims to be the victim of any type of identity theft.
• A patient who has an insurance number but never produces an insurance card or other physical documentation of insurance.
• A notice or inquiry from an insurance fraud investigator for a private insurance company or a law enforcement agency.

If a situation is flagged, a creditor must take steps to mitigate the risk of identity theft or continued identity theft.  Again, the World Privacy Forum notes:

There need to be uniform but appropriately flexible answers to these questions:

  • What do we do when a patient claims fraud is in their files?
  • What do we do when a patient says the bills are for services she did not receive?
  • What do we do for patients and other impacted victims when we uncover a fraudulent operation?
  • When we have a real case of medical identity theft, how can we work with patients to fix the records and limit future damages?
  • What do we do when a provider has altered the patient records?
  • How do we handle police reports and requests for investigation from victims?

The answers to these questions need to viewed not just from the provider’s perspective, but also from the victim’s perspective, which can differ substantially.

There are a number of useful resources available for health care providers seeking to take stock of their situation, establish Red Flags Rule compliance policies and procedures, and undertake staff training on the subject.  For example, the FTC, the AMA and the World Privacy Forum have all released valuable guidance documents (all linked to above) that would assist any organization with coming into compliance. 

As with any effort of this sort, it is often valuable to have someone outside the organization come in to review existing policies, procedures and workflow in order to highlight potential risks and opportunities for improvement.  The HealthBlawger and members of the HealthBlawger's virtual consulting network are available to come in and assess, plan and help implement compliance strategies for organizations large and small touched by the Red Flags Rule.

Whatever the size or nature of your business, please take a moment to consider how the Red Flags Rule may apply to its operations, and how it may relate to other regulatory schemes such as HIPAA and state laws.

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

June 05, 2009

Nursing home arbitration agreements under fire

An Illinois law bars the use of pre-dispute arbitration agreements signed at the time of admission.  This law was upheld by the Illinois appellate court.  The Supremes refused this past week to hear an appeal, letting the lower court ruling stand, despite the existence of a federal law that permits the enforcement of such agreements.  Massachusetts has ruled in favor of the enforceability of arbitration agreements covering nursing home disputes.  As I've written in the past, Federal legislation has been introduced that would have the same effect as the Illinois law, but arbitration (and mediation) are often far preferable to court process for resolution of many types of disputes.

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

March 06, 2009

David Harlow quoted in Medicare Compliance Alert on pre-employment background checks

Take some advice from the HealthBlawger in screening new employees.  Check out some specifics in the current edition of DecisionHealth's Medicare Compliance Alert, offered in point-counterpoint format with tips from my friend Bill Mandell.

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

March 04, 2009

Bad idea: proposed nullification of pre-dispute arbitration agreements affecting nursing facility residents

From today's mailbag, courtesy of the American Health Lawyers Association:

Proposed legislation would nullify certain pre-dispute arbitration agreements.

CQ (3/4, Kim) reports, "Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA) has introduced a bill that would make pre-dispute arbitration agreements between long-term care facilities and residents invalid and unenforceable." According to Sanchez, "Arbitration agreements are often buried in overly complicated contracts, and many consumers do not realize they are waiving their legal options. ... We have to protect families and seniors, and that includes giving them the tools they need to protect their full legal rights." Notably, the "American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living oppose the bill (HR 1237), arguing that pre-dispute agreements bring timely, less adversarial settlements, and help to prevent rising medical costs due to lawsuits, and allow staff to focus on patient care."

Arbitration of disputes -- or better yet, mediation-arbitration -- can go a long way towards speeding up the dispute resolution process, and keeping costs down.

I wrote about this issue at greater length a couple years back, when the Massachusetts courts recognized the enforceability of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in the nursing facility context, and offered a couple of practice pointers:

  • Make the med-arb agreement a separate agreement
  • Make clear that signing the med-arb agreement is not a condition of admission; to make that point even clearer, it could be signed later on (to further dispel the notion that it is a contract of adhesion entered into at the time of a nursing facility admission), but should be clearly retroactive to the date of admission
  • Make sure the person signing on behalf of the resident has the authority to do so (lack of authority is a favored argument to be made in trying to invalidate such a med-arb agreement)
Sample agreement provisions and additional information,including how to submit a dispute for resolution by mediation and/or arbitration may be obtained through the AHLA ADR ServiceI am available as a neutral through AHLA or directly through my firm.

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

November 26, 2008

Engage With Grace

As patients, as family members, as friends, as health care providers, we have all faced end-of-life issues at one time or another, and we will face them again.  And again. 

This weekend, the "Engage With Grace" message is being broadcast virally, through a "blog rally," at a time when many people are with family and friends over the long weekend.  (Thanks to Paul Levy and Charlie Baker for getting the issue out of the blogosphere and onto page one of the Boston Globe today, too.)  The point is: we all need to have the potentially uncomfortable conversation with people close to us about what kind of treatment we would want, and they would want, if incapable of making or communicating health care decisions.  (If you really want to monopolize Thanksgiving dinner conversation, you could also start the family health history conversation being promoted by the Surgeon General.)

End-of-life decisionmaking has long been an issue of great personal and professional interest to me, and I am proud to have played a role in having out-of-hospital DNR orders recognized in Massachusetts by EMS providers, as an example. 

Download your copies of the Massachusetts health care proxy form or other states' proxy or living will forms -- and add specific instructions about nutrition, hydration, and anything else that is important to you so that everything is crystal clear.  My mom kept a stack of living will forms in the dining room when I was growing up, and was not shy about raising the issue with dinner guests and offering to witness their directives.  Having the conversation is a starting point; we all need to follow through and make sure that our loved ones' wishes are documented, placed in medical records, discussed with physicians and other caregivers, and honored. 

When I have the opportunity to speak to groups of lawyers or health care providers, I often ask for a show of hands: how many of you have health care proxies?  The percentage seems to have increased over time, but it is still not where it needs to be.  If groups that should be above average in this respect are not all raising their hands, then we clearly have a lot to do in terms of educating the general public about the need to have the sometimes difficult conversation with friends and family members.  That's what the Engage With Grace project is all about.  And with that, I turn over this post to Engage With Grace:

*    *    * 

We make choices throughout our lives - where we want to live, what types of activities will fill our days, with whom we spend our time. These choices are often a balance between our desires and our means, but at the end of the day, they are decisions made with intent. But when it comes to how we want to be treated at the end our lives, often we don't express our intent or tell our loved ones about it.

This has real consequences. 73% of Americans would prefer to die at home, but up to 50% die in hospital. More than 80% of Californians say their loved ones "know exactly" or have a "good idea" of what their wishes would be if they were in a persistent coma, but only 50% say they've talked to them about their preferences.  But our end of life experiences are about a lot more than statistics. They're about all of us.

So the first thing we need to do is start talking. Engage With Grace: The One Slide Project was designed with one simple goal: to help get the conversation about end of life experience started. The idea is simple: Create a tool to help get people talking. One Slide, with just five questions on it. Five questions designed to help get us talking with each other, with our loved ones, about our preferences.

And we're asking people to share this One Slide - wherever and whenever they a presentation, at dinner, at their book club. Just One Slide, just five questions. Lets start a global discussion that, until now, most of us haven't had.Here is what we are asking you: Download The One Slide and share it at any opportunity - with colleagues, family, friends. Think of the slide as currency and donate just two minutes whenever you can. Commit to being able to answer these five questions about end of life experience for yourself, and for your loved ones. Then commit to helping others do the same. Get this conversation started.

Let's start a viral movement driven by the change we as individuals can effect...and the incredibly positive impact we could have collectively. Help ensure that all of us - and the people we care for - can end our lives in the same purposeful way we live them. Just One Slide, just one goal. Think of the enormous difference we can make together.

(To learn more please go to This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team)

*    *    *

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting