The Kentucky long-term care ombudsman program is at risk in Kentucky due to a change in federal policy. The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services is “quietly telling some state aging leaders that by Jan. 1 they will no longer be allowed to use civil monetary penalty funds to help pay for the nursing home ombudsman program in their states,” Bernie Vonderheide, president and founder of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, writes an op-ed piece in The Courier-Journal.
The civil penalties are assessed for violations in nursing homes. In Kentucky, the fund contains about $15 million. But if the move by CMS goes through, Kentucky “stands to lose more than a half million dollars a year from the CMP fund that has gone into supporting full-time ombudsmen in all of the 15 area development districts in the state,” Vonderheide writes. “We are concerned about the callous and apparently clueless action by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It is obvious that the Washington bureaucrats who make decisions like this have never been in a nursing home and are oblivious to the needs of the people.”
Nursing-home ombudsmen investigate alleged abuse and neglect in facilities, and visit residents. “In the average nursing home, surveys show that more than half the residents never have a visitor — family member or friend — except for one, and that’s the ombudman,” Vonderheide writes. “We can’t lose our nursing home residents’ best friends — those angels of mercy, the ombudsmen.” (Read more)