Kusserow on Compliance: OIG plans 2021 evaluation of nursing home discharge requirements

The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced it is planning in 2021 to examine the extent to which nursing homes meet CMS requirements for facility-initiated discharges. In its announcement, the OIG noted that a facility-initiated transfer or discharge of a resident from a nursing home can be an unsafe and traumatic experience for the resident and his or her family. In response to this concern, Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 to protect residents against inappropriate facility-initiated transfer and discharge.

However, data from the National Ombudsman Reporting System show, from 2011 through 2016, cited complaints related to “discharge/eviction” more frequently than any other concern. The OIG also took note of the media reports that highlighted the rise in nursing home evictions and complaints about the discharge process. Past reviews found varying reasons for non-compliant discharges. Some discharges are driven by changes to payment source, but the most frequently reported discharge reason relates to residents that are discharged due to “behavioral, mental, and/or emotional expressions or indications of resident distress.” This includes facilities discharging residents while they are hospitalized related to these behaviors as the basis for discharge. The most common discharge violations included: (1) placement in a questionable/unsafe setting; (2) where a resident remains hospitalized; and (e) where there is a pattern of discharge violations in the facility, among other issues.

The OIG has long monitored the extent to which state long-term care ombudsmen, state survey agencies, and CMS address facility-initiated discharges from nursing homes.  As part of its ongoing work in this area, it will, in 2021, be further examining the extent to which nursing homes meet CMS requirements for facility-initiated discharges. Nursing Home Compliance Officers should take note of this and build a review of this compliance issue in their 2021 workplan.


Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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