David Gifford, M.D., senior vice president of quality affairs at AHCA
Industry leaders blasted a newly proposed Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regulation that would allow civil money penalties of up to $200,000 against skilled nursing home staff who fail to report reasonable suspicion of crimes.

The proposed regulation also would allow for a two-year facility exclusion from federal health programs if authorities discover retaliation against staff who report abuse.

American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living members fully support “thoughtful, proactive measures” designed to address abuse and neglect, said AHCA Vice President David Gifford, M.D.

“(But) this kind of penalty will do nothing to proactively prevent abuse,” he told McKnight’s in a statement. “Instead, it singles out nursing home staff and sends a chilling effect through the profession, making it more challenging to hire and retain qualified staff. This kind of regulation will prevent skilled and passionate individuals from working in nursing homes.”

The proposed fines are “excessive,” said LeadingAge CEO Katie Smith Sloan, who echoed Gifford’s concerns that the penalties would be counterproductive to the industry’s recruiting efforts.

“Why, with the threat of large financial penalties for failure to detect and report a ‘reasonable suspicion’ of a crime against a resident, would anyone want to work in a nursing home?” Sloan said in a statement to McKnight’s. “Why would well-meaning and capable professionals not go to work in hospitals and other healthcare organizations instead?”

Both organizations said there were already both criminal, professional and financial penalties for those who commit abuse against nursing home residents, and for facilities that fail to report it. The 2010 Elder Justice Act is among the existing statues, which requires nursing homes to report incidents of abuse to law enforcement and regulatory agencies.

Additional proposed penalties “only serve as a disincentive to serve in nursing homes without making residents any safer,” Sloan said.