Cautious optimism for Hoosier nursing home reforms

Indiana took an important step toward addressing the issues that have plagued a nursing home system that puts the lives of the most vulnerable Hoosiers at risk.

That’s reason for cautious optimism, and this should be seen as only a good start at fixing problems — including understaffing and a lack of transparency — that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials from the Family and Social Services Administration outlined proposed reforms aimed at increasing the quality of care for aging Hoosiers. The four-point plan would allow more Hoosiers to age at home and would incentivize quality care for residents of the state’s nursing homes.

The reforms come after a series of reports by our colleagues at the Indianapolis Star revealed alarming problems with the state’s nursing home system. The reports offered a path to reform, including stricter requirements for nursing home staffing, cracking down on the practice of county hospitals directing Medicaid money away from nursing homes they own and funding more options for home care.

Under the plan laid out by FSSA Secretary Jennifer Sullivan and Chief Medical Officer Dan Rusyniak, the state would pursue a managed care system that would allow Hoosiers to access information about the different types of care that are available, including home care. Under a managed care system, an organization or company becomes the clearinghouse for directing residents and their families toward the care they need.

Other reforms include linking funding to quality outcomes, offering faster approvals for home or community-based care and better data tracking by the state to allow it to assess providers and determine which are the best and worst performers.

The plan should help the state make inroads in the systemic problems that have been overlooked by state leaders for years. And it should help Indiana move beyond a status quo that hasn’t served the best interests of residents in long-term care facilities.

Indiana still has plenty of work to do to make the state’s nursing home system the priority that it needs to be. But this four-point plan is an encouraging sign that state officials are finally turning their attention to a long-standing problem.