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How have penalties for health and safety violations changed?

When there is a violation of a health or safety rule in a New Mexico nursing home that results in harm to or endangerment of a resident, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services impose a fine. NPR reports that within the last five years, a new policy went into effect that changed the way that regulators punished a facility for allegedly harming a patient. In the past, regulators could act according to their own discretion in choosing to impose penalties on facilities in which residents came to harm, but the new policy requires punishment in the form of fines for every facility in every instance that patient harm comes to light. 

The new policy has resulted in an increase in the number and frequency of citations issued against long-term care facilities. However, with a new administration currently in power, the amount of money that the government is charging facilities in fines has dropped significantly when compared to the fine amounts charged during the previous administration. During the final year of the previous presidential administration, the average fine amount was $41,260. Currently, the average is $28,405. Additionally, the current administration more often imposes only a single fine, while the previous administration would charge a penalty for every day that the nursing home remained out of compliance.

Critics have some concerns that the decrease in the amount of money each fine imposes could represent an insufficient incentive to address dangerous nursing home practices, especially for large facilities better able to absorb the cost. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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