New Jersey & Federal Nursing Home Regulations & Laws
Federal and New Jersey Nursing Home Laws, Rights and Regulations
Elder Americans and dependent adults who live in New Jersey nursing homes or assisted living facilities have express rights, as dictated by many federal and state elder abuse laws. Both state and national governments enacted these laws to protect this vulnerable population, 44% of whom are abused or neglected in nursing homes.
Despite these laws, which specific public and private oversight agencies are designated to enforce, nursing home abuse still occurs. It’s important for all nursing home residents and their loved ones to be educated on their elderly rights so they can pursue legal action when necessary.
New Jersey Nursing Home Regulations
The New Jersey Legislature has enacted several laws that uphold a certain standard of care in New Jersey nursing homes. Collectively, these laws aim to reduce the amount of elder abuse in the state by requiring nursing homes to maintain a high standard of healthcare and empowering residents with many rights, including the right to organize and the right to make their own medical decisions.
In the Garden State, the key nursing home laws are:
- Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights (N.J.S.A. 30:13–5)
- Standards for Licensure of Long-Term Care Facilities (N.J.A.C. 8:39)
- General Licensure Procedures and Enforcement of Licensure Regulations (N.J.A.C. 8:43E)
It takes the work of several public and private agencies, including the New Jersey Department of Health, to maintain oversight of the state’s nursing homes and their compliance with elder abuse laws. These groups audit nursing home facilities roughly once a year to make sure they are compliant with state and federal regulations. They also receive and investigate complaints from residents and their loved ones.
If a person has been abused or neglected while residing in a nursing home, the statute of limitations to file a negligence, personal injury or wrongful death claim is two years from the date of injury.
New Jersey Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights
One of the most important laws regarding nursing homes in New Jersey is the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights, which establishes that residents may not be deprived of any constitutional rights despite their admittance in a nursing home.
The bill of rights covers nine different areas, protecting a resident’s right to:
- Medical Care – including the right to refuse medication and treatment
- Freedom from Abuse and Restraints – including the right to live in a facility that doesn’t neglect its residents
- Finances – including the right to manage one’s own finances
- Physical and Personal Environment – including the right to wear one’s own clothes
- Visits and Activities – including the right to leave the nursing home during the day
- Privacy and Confidentiality – including the right to have opportunity for intimate social and physical interactions
- Discharges and Transfers – including the right to discharge oneself
- Mail and Telephones – including the right to privacy of written correspondence
- Protection of Your Rights – including the right to voice complaints without fear of punishment
Regulating Nursing Homes Laws in New Jersey
Several state and private agencies are charged with regulating New Jersey nursing home neglect laws. The public agencies are the New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly. Private institutions that also provide oversight to member organizations are the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
The Department of Health is responsible for inspecting nursing homes in the state to ensure that they are meeting the criteria to accept state Medicare and Medicaid payments. Also known as surveys, these inspections are conducted at least once a year — or more for lower-rated facilities — during three- or four-day on-site visits. The surveys evaluate a nursing home’s equipment, staff, rules and finances against more than 1,500 specific criteria outlined in both federal and New Jersey law.
At the conclusion of the survey, the Department of Health issues a written report of its findings to the care facility. If the facility is found in violation of any elder abuse laws or elder rights, the facility is required to submit a written plan of correction within 10 business days; to include details of when and how the deficiency will be corrected.
If the issues are minor, the Department of Health may spare the facility from a fine; however, fines can be implemented whenever a state or federal regulation is broken. For violating New Jersey law, the maximum fine is $5,000 per violation, per day. For federal laws, the fines range from $50 to $10,000 per violation, per day.
In addition, all of the public and private oversight agencies also hear complaints from nursing home residents and their loved ones. When a complaint is filed, a survey may be scheduled. In these cases, the oversight agencies investigate allegations of abuse and resident exploitation.
Filing an Elder Abuse Complaint
New Jersey nursing home residents have the right to make complaints about the institution they are staying in without fear of punishment. Anyone wishing to make a complaint about a nursing home in the state may write or call:
- Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, P.O. Box 852, Trenton, NJ, 08625; 1-877-582-6995
- New Jersey Department of Health, Health Facilities Evaluation and Licensing, P.O. Box 358, Trenton, NJ, 08625; 1-800-792-9770 (complaints); 1-800-367-6543 (questions)
- NJ Easy Access, Single Entry (NJ EASE), 1-877-222-3737
Federal Nursing Home Regulations
As the magnitude of elder abuse and neglect has come to light, the U.S. Federal Government has continually sought to strengthen national protections of elder Americans.
Nationally, some of the most significant laws are:
- Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987
- Older Americans Act of 1965
- 42 CFR Part 483 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
- Federal Medicare Health Insurance Program for the Aged
Oversight of nursing home laws falls on a few key federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with help from individual states’ regulatory agencies.
Federal Nursing Home Reform Act
Congress enacted the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987 after commissioning a study on the subject of nursing home care the year prior. The act establishes a national Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights, as well as a standard of care nursing home most comply with.
Only those nursing homes certified by their respective states for being in strict compliance with the Nursing Home Reform Act can receive payments from Medicare and Medicaid, which studies show account for more than half of a nursing home’s income.
The Nursing Home Reform Act requires nursing homes to:
- Periodically assess each resident
- Create a care plan for each resident
- Provide nursing, social, rehabilitation, pharmaceutical and dietary services
- Retain a full-time social worker if the facility has 120 beds or more
The Nursing Home Reform Act’s Residents’ Bill of Rights gives all residents of U.S. nursing homes the right to:
- Be free from abuse, neglect and mistreatment
- Freedom from physical restraints
- Accommodation of physical, psychological, medical and social needs
- Participate in social activities
- Be treated with respect
- Communicate freely, including making complaints without fear of punishment
- Review and make decisions in their own care plan
- Exercise self-determination
Regulating National Nursing Home Laws
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services are the two main federal agencies tasked with nursing home law oversight. They are aided by each state’s individual nursing home regulatory agencies.
Although the Nursing Home Reform Act was implemented in 1987, Congress did not establish any regulations to implement oversight of the law until 1995. According to the Act, federal agencies are required to certify nursing homes seeking Medicare and Medicaid funds once every 15 months. Similar to the practices in New Jersey, these surveys occur roughly once per year. If a long-term care facility is found to violate any national regulations, the federal fines range from $50 to $10,000 per violation, per day.
In some cases, state agencies work on behalf of federal agencies to perform these surveys or investigate complaints. If a nursing home is found in violation of the Nursing Home Reform Act, it may be subjected to standardized enforcement actions, including:
- Staff in-service training
- State monitoring
- A directed plan of correction
- Denial of Medicare of Medicaid payments for established patients
- Denial of new Medicare and Medicaid patients
- Temporary management
- Termination of provider agreement
File Your Nursing Home Lawsuit Today
Despite the myriad of national and statewide regulations on these facilities, nursing homes are regularly found in noncompliance with these laws and elder abuse is still rampant.
When nursing homes and the government fail to protect the rights of elder Americans, this responsibility often falls on nursing home litigators like Dansky | Katz | Ringold | York. As experienced nursing home abuse attorneys, we take protecting you and your loved ones seriously.
If you or someone in your family suspects there has been negligence, or someone has suffered personal injury or wrongful death during a New Jersey nursing home stay, you may be able to receive compensation for your pain and suffering. Contact Dansky | Katz | Ringold | York at 856-489-1515 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.