CMS Issues Draft Revised Survey and Enforcement Guidance On SNF Advance Directives Policies and Implementation


In early October, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued draft revised guidance to surveyors on the responsibility of SNFs to have policies and procedures, and to properly implement and honor advance directives (living wills, health care powers of attorney, the MOST form) of residents. There’s good news and bad news in this.

The good news is that the N.C. long term care industry is far ahead of the curve on advance directives information. The N.C. Healthcare Facilities Association, working with our firm, has developed, distributed and trained on policies and procedures governing advance directives in SNFs in the last couple of years. The model policy we developed for the association is consistent with the expectations of CMS regarding end of life care planning and documentation, including advance directives. So, if you have obtained, implemented and are following that policy, you should be in great shape.

The bad news is that this revised guidance seems to signal a heightened focus on advance directives in SNFs. As with all recent CMS survey/enforcement guidance, the CMS October guidance on advance directives not only explains facility obligations regarding end of life care planning and options, but also directs surveyors about what to look for and how to survey for compliance with those obligations. Each facility should obtain this guidance and, in our opinion, train staff on it, paying particular attention to the examples CMS gives surveyors of the various scope and severity levels that should or may be assigned to various failures of the facility to properly educate about, plan for, assist residents with and implement advance directives.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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