A stethoscope sits on an examination table in an exam room at a Community Clinic Inc. health center in Takoma Park, Maryland, April 8, 2015. 
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Trump administration scales back penalties for nursing homes

About a month after his inauguration, Donald Trump spoke at CPAC and assured conservatives, “We will not answer to donors or lobbyists or special interests.”

With the benefit of hindsight, the president’s rhetoric sounds almost cruel. The New York Times  reported the other day, for example, on the Trump administration targeting protections for nursing home residents at the request of the industry.

The Trump administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury, part of a broader relaxation of regulations under the president.

The shift in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols was requested by the nursing home industry.

Of course it was. The Times’ report noted since the start of Barack Obama’s second term, federal officials found that “nearly 6,500 nursing homes – four of every 10 – have been cited at least once for a serious violation.” Given numbers like those, one is tempted to assume existing safeguards need to be maintained.

But under Trump’s new guidelines, regulators will be discouraged from fining nursing homes for some infractions, “even when they have resulted in a resident’s death.”

The idea is, Obama-era protections and penalties were burdensome on facilities, so Trump is easing that burden – by weakening the penalties.

The article explains the broader dynamic in quite a bit of detail, and the piece is worth your time. It quoted a senior attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy saying the administration has “pretty much emasculated enforcement, which was already weak.” Naturally, the industry and its trade association don’t see it that way.

Stepping back, however, when the president talks about his successes in rolling back “regulations,” the public at large may not fully appreciate what that means. The picture Trump is painting is that of pesky and unnecessary rules, which stand in everyone’s way, and satisfy no one but bureaucrats and paper-pushers. By cutting regulations, the argument goes, the White House is helping everyone, eliminating annoying red tape.

But as the nursing home example helps prove, one administration’s regulation is another administration safeguard.

Regulations

Trump administration scales back penalties for nursing homes