Low-performing nursing homes may soon be subject to sanctions in New Jersey

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The New Jersey Senate Health and Human Services Committee cleared a bill Thursday that would allow the state to issue sanctions to nursing homes that do not perform up to standard.

The proposal is based on a five-star rating system implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Underperforming nursing homes would be subject to potential punitive actions by the state, including limiting the facility’s number of Medicaid enrollments and reducing funding.

The committee approved the measure by a vote of 6 to 1.

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Jim McCracken, president of the New Jersey and Delaware chapter of Leading Age — a multi-state association of non-profit senior care organizations — said the CMS star-rating system is an ineffective tool for reprimanding low-performing nursing homes.

“It was designed as one of many tools that a consumer reviews when selecting a nursing home, and my concern … is now we’re taking a consumer product that wasn’t designed to be a survey product, and we’re saying … use this consumer product and develop your own set of rules and regulations to further sanction and penalize what may or may not be a low-performing provider,” McCracken said.

“We just don’t think that the CMS tool was designed for that purpose. And we do not believe that there needs to be a second state agency piling on more sanctions for nursing homes … and the federal government has the tools they need already,” he said.

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It comes as the Murphy Administration faces several lawsuits over a string of coronavirus-related deaths at nursing homes around the state.

Republican lawmakers have called for a special committee and hearings over the issue, though there hasn’t been much support on the other side of the aisle.

Senate Health and Human Services committee member Sen. Robert Singer (R-Ocean) stated that nursing homes would receive warnings prior to any sanctions.

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