When nursing homes provide poor care, fines and penalties are one of the few legal recourses you have against egregiously bad actors. But the new administration in Washington appears to be taking the side of the nursing home industry by reducing the use of fines and penalties, even in cases where nursing home residents have been put in grave danger. This situation appears to be part of a general trend to relax regulations against corporations.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, the burden placed on you to ensure that they are being compassionately treated according to Medicare standards is heavier now than ever before.
Is the Industry Running the Show?
It’s no secret that the nursing home industry asked for this loosening of restrictions and penalties. The American Health Care Association (AHCA), which spent $3.9 million on lobbying in 2016 as the industry’s main trade group, had previously complained that federal investigators focused more on catching wrongdoers than on helping facilities improve. Mark Parkinson, the president of the AHCA, sent a letter to President Trump in December, 2016, congratulating him on his win and stating, among other things, “It is critical that we have relief.” The reason was that the industry was “on the brink of failure” due to being “the most regulated profession in the country.”
According to patient advocates, the rollback of certain changes made under the previous administration placed nursing home residents at an immediate, increased risk of harm, including injury and death. The Center for Medicare Advocacy commented that it was “dismayed to see CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] attempting to reverse its own guidance in favor of the nursing home industry’s demands.”
Sorely Needed Room for Improvement is Thwarted
Four out of 10 nursing homes—almost 6,500 of them—have been cited since 2013 for a serious violation. In two-thirds of the cases, CMS has fined the nursing homes for citations ranging from neglect to mistreatment to bedsores to accidents that could have been avoided.
Despite these numbers, the new guidelines dissuade regulators from levying fines, even in cases where a resident died. When fines are handed out, the amounts are often lessened under the new, looser regulations.
An Additional Blow
Another bit of helpful regulation has been set up to be discarded. The current administration is proposing to make it harder—perhaps impossible, in some cases—for nursing home residents to sue for abuse or negligence. This new proposal that impacts arbitration agreements, according to industry experts, could make it hopeless for nursing home residents seeking their day in court because they suffered abuse or negligence.
Do We Want This?
Is this situation what we want? Consider those seniors who died in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey because the needed generators, mandated by law, were not installed. And yet it’s been proposed that current regulations grow even more lax, with fewer teeth such as fines. A senior attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Toby Edelman, stated that the revised fines and penalties have “pretty much emasculated enforcement, which was already weak.”
We need increased enforcement, not lessened oversight. But until this issue is resolved, it will be incumbent upon the families of those in nursing homes to protect their loved ones as best they can.
Seeking Truth, Securing Justice for Seniors
When someone you love has been hurt, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. When this happens, the nursing home injury lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm can review your legal options and work with you to determine the most appropriate next step.