U.S. Rep. Mark Walker filed legislation Tuesday to change the way the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides mortgage insurance to nursing homes—the subject of a Center for Public Integrity investigation last fall.
Walker’s proposed Nursing Home Accountability Act seeks to link the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) quality ratings to loan eligibility by ensuring that new federally backed loans go to facilities with a demonstrated commitment to quality care for their residents, according to Walker spokesman Kyle Hall. Walker is a North Carolina Republican.
Hall said Walker’s previous experience as a pastor had given him familiarity with area nursing homes, and a story by a local reporter using data from the Center for Public Integrity prompted the representative to take action.
“Our local Fox affiliate did the story on the one-star facility that got a HUD-backed loan we have here in our district in Greensboro,” Hall said. “That inspired him to look into this issue.”
Under the proposed legislation, if a nursing home receives an overall quality rating of 2 stars or less out of a possible 5 stars for 30 consecutive months, the nursing home will be ineligible for any future mortgages guaranteed by HUD.
The quality ratings are an important part of the government’s Nursing Home Compare website that is used by consumers to evaluate prospective nursing homes for family members.
Nursing homes are inspected every 9 to 15 months, according to CMS.
Walker wanted to bar from the program nursing homes that had provided sub-standard care for two inspection cycles, Hall said. The legislation’s 30-month threshold would give facilities sufficient time to improve the quality of care.
But Clifton J. Porter, II, senior vice president of government relations for the American Health Care Association, a nursing home industry group, expressed concerns about the bill.
“Upon initial review, AHCA has concerns with this legislation that we would like to discuss with the Congressman,” Porter said in a statement. “Because skilled nursing centers use these loans for improvements that enhance patient care, we would not want to see centers that need the loans the most prohibited from receiving them.”