State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
The Administration on Aging (AoA) of the Administration for Community Living (ACL) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, with request for comments, to implement provisions of the Older Americans Act, the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. This proposed rule replaces AoA's 1994 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Since 1992, the functions of this program have been delineated in the Older Americans Act; however, regulations have not been promulgated for any Title VII program. In the absence of regulatory guidance, there has been significant variation in the interpretation and implementation of these provisions among States. Recent inquiries from States and an AoA compliance review in one State have highlighted the difficulty of determining State compliance in carrying out the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program functions. This rulemaking provides the first regulatory guidance for States' Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs to provide clarity about implementation. HHS estimates that a number of states may need to update their statutes, regulations, policies and/or practices in order to operate the program consistent with federal law and this proposed regulation. The effective date of the rule is anticipated to be one year after publication of any final rule to allow States appropriate time for such changes, if needed. AoA anticipates little or no financial impact on the providers of long-term care ombudsman services, the consumers served by the program, or long-term care providers through implementation of the proposed rules. AoA believes that consumers (particularly residents of long-term care facilities) and long-term care providers will benefit from the implementation of these proposed rules. Consumers and other complainants across the country will receive services from the Long- Term Care Ombudsman program with less variation in the quality, efficiency, and consistency of service delivery. Long-term care ombudsmen and States will also benefit from the implementation of these proposed rules in the establishment and operation of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program at the State and local levels. For years, States and long-term care ombudsmen at every level have reported to AoA that they have found some provisions of the Act confusing to implement. The proposed rule seeks to provide the clarity that program stakeholders have requested.