By now, many of us hear horror stories about the hacking of emails, government agency servers, company servers, and the theft of personal information. The recent attacks on the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management’s servers potentially exposed the personal information of about 21.5 million individuals who worked for or may have only applied for jobs within the federal government. Many of us all know the years-old comical story of emails from a mysterious (and fictitious) Nigerian prince seeking financial help.
In New Hope, Minnesota, two nursing home residents suffered horrendous maltreatment at the hands of at least a pair of facility employees. At the Saint Therese Senior Care Facility, two nursing assistants are alleged to have abused two residents at the facility. Not only have they been fired, but they were arrested and booked, though no criminal charges have yet been brought. To date it has not been entirely revealed what occurred, but the state’s Department of Health is investigating the matter while the city attorney awaits further information in order to make a decision as to whether or not the city should file criminal charges against the workers. This case, albeit in the investigatory stages and lacking clear details, is another reminder of how abuse and neglect can land alleged perpetrators in hot water, and cause tremendous problems for facilities in terms of their own possible sanctions, charges, and loss of reputation and business.
Healthcare Fraud in General
Various types of fraud occur across the healthcare industry. The most common types we see in the headlines concern Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Medicare and Medicaid are federal programs that fund and administer, in conjunction with relevant state health agencies, to insure the elderly and poor for healthcare. This can cover, in whole or in part, doctor visits, hospital stays, and even residency at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Healthcare providers who falsely bill or overbill for services not rendered, or prescribe treatments or procedures that are unnecessary and then bill Medicare and Medicaid for reimbursement, commit fraud against the government and thereby the taxpayers. This activity is sometimes tied into kickbacks schemes whereby providers receive kickbacks for making patient referrals or using specific pharmaceutical drugs, which is generally illegal.
In our society, people often say, “You should sue him,” when a business deal goes wrong, or when someone suffers a personal injury or property damage. But suing someone, and even winning, is only the first half of the process. The second half, and often the hardest part, is collecting on the judgment award and actually receiving money for the harm caused.
Collecting A Judgment in Illinois
The process of collecting on a judgment starts with learning what assets the debtor owns. Typically, there are four main sources of money that a creditor can look to for money from an individual debtor, including (1) the debtor’s bank accounts; (2) the debtor’s personal property; (3) the debtor’s paycheck; and (4) the debtor’s real property.
Citation To Discover Assets
It’s heartbreaking to take a call from someone who was seriously hurt in an accident – whether a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, etc. – and you have to tell them that the statute of limitations expired and you can’t do anything for them. It’s a harsh reality - you don’t have an infinite amount of time to take action against the party that hurt you.
In Illinois, you have two years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. Yes, that means the statute of limitations may begin to run the day you get injured. Though, the statute of limitations might run from the date you discovered you were injured, rather than the date that you actually suffered the injury. This is known as a "discovery date" and typically comes into play with workplace disease claims and medical malpractice claims. Typically, if you were hurt in an accident, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the accident.
It may not be as clear as you think.
When negligence results in death, the law has a couple ways of compensating for the loss. First, if the person did not die immediately, her estate might choose to bring a survival action. Second, the person’s family might choose to bring a lawsuit based on their own loss. After all, the death of a spouse, parent, or child can have a lasting and devastating impact on the family, not only emotionally, but also financially. These are called wrongful death actions. Many cases involve claims for both.
Clients often come to an attorney consumed by grief. Perhaps the client just lost a spouse or elderly parent. The deceased person may have children by more than one marriage. There may even be a will. Close family members often assume that as a spouse or child, they will receive the full sum of the court’s award. Likewise, they might have heard that the will determines who gets the money. But it is not always that easy.
Survival v. Wrongful Death
Out of the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, New York comes an incredibly sad tale of alleged horrid abuse committed by nursing home workers against their residents. According to local reports, back in October 2014, three employees of the Peninsula nursing and Rehabilitation Center – two nurses and a certified nurse’s aide – were implicated in the abuse. One of the nurses pulled a middle-aged male patient around on the floor while other employees merely watched.
The scene is described as the man bled from around his arm or neck, and was clearly in pain. He was allegedly left on the floor for about 12 minutes, though which had to have felt like eternity, and then was dragged all the way back to his room. Reports also indicate that the man was already seriously debilitated both physically and mentally. Close to another half hour later, he was bleeding from the back of his head as well as his face, while two of the staffers merely ignored him and allegedly failed to properly treat his injuries as the man crawled around back into the hallway. One of the staffers then grabbed in and again dragged him toward his room.
The nurses and nursing aide implicated in the abuse as well as the mere standing by and thus neglect to help the injured and bleeding man, all no longer work at the facility, having either been fired or resigned their positions. They have also been arrested for violating health laws and for endangerment of a disabled person, demonstrating that not only their employment status can be affected, but that they can face criminal charges for such alleged heinous behavior. All accounts are allegations at this point, and all three entered not guilty pleas. They each face up to four years behind bars if convicted.
At the end of June, reports emerged of a particularly heinous act committed at a nursing home in the state Washington. We are unfortunately all too used to seeing incidents of physical, mental and emotional abuse of nursing home residents across the country. Some residents find themselves ignored in spite of the need to be properly fed, nourished, hydrated, and bathed. This can lead to malnourishment, dehydration, and unsanitary living conditions in which they can develop bed sores or other conditions, which can then worsen into sepsis or other infections. Unfortunately we also see nurses and nursing aides and other staffers resort to physical abuse when they become impatient with a resident, or simply out of pure cruelty.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is a key agency in the oversight of nursing homes and the enforcement of laws and regulations over those facilities. Thus it is only fair to expect that the officials and employees at this vital state agency are trustworthy and do what is in the best interest of the state’s citizens and residents when it comes to public health. This unfortunately cannot be said for a particular IDPH official who will be going behind bars for two years after authorities uncovered a multi-million dollar kickback scheme to take money from a federal grant program.
In the Prospect Park area of Brooklyn, New York, residents at the Prospect Park Residence nursing home have reportedly had to endure uncomfortable conditions, all because of the allegedly skewed priorities of the nursing home’s owner. The owner simply will not turn on the air conditioning at the facility, which undoubtedly makes for a miserable environment during the middle of another hot summer, all because he wants to push the residents to move out by making the conditions so inhospitable. There are only seven residents left to sweat out the lack of air conditioning. Apparently if everyone moves out and there are no more residents, the owner will be able to sell the facility. There had been a tentative deal in place to sell the building for $76.5 million, but on the condition that all residents move out. The owner had plans to sell since April 2014. The facility once housed 130 residents before decreasing down to the present seven. The refusal of remaining residents to move (and the refusal of their families to have the moved) has led to the real estate deal falling through.
Unsanitary and Unlivable
Local reports noted that the state Department of Health previously cited the nursing home for not correcting fire safety violations over the course of two years. The owner also failed to renew the facility’s license as required, and it was further reported that there were other problems related to sanitation and food service, leaky ceilings and peeling paint, bed bugs, and a failure to ensure residents were following restricted diets. To add insult to injury, the owner has even raised rates charged to residents.
As we have seen, there has been a growing trend in community-based healthcare, which offers an alternative to the strictures of nursing home care. Through community-based care, patients can receive in-home visits or live-in aides to ensure that they receive the proper care, but have the freedom of being at home. This is also the case for hospital patients who, when released, can receive follow-up care at home to reduce the likelihood of having to be readmitted to the hospital with a relapse or more complications (such community-based care has been a staple of the Medicare expansion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).
With the restrictions of nursing home life, and the unfortunate incidents of abuse and neglect that can lead to illness, injury and even death, community-based has become a more attractive option for those who would be right for it. And Medicare funding and other insurance has expanded to cover the costs of such care for many in whole or in part. Illinois’ Community Care program provides visits for the elderly and infirmed to help them bathe, prepare food for them, and help them with otherwise routine chores that they cannot do or struggle to do on their own as a result of age or disability.
Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a landmark and headline-grabbing decision in King v. Burwell, ruled in a 6-3 vote that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (the “ACA” or colloquially “Obamacare”) provision providing subsidies for healthcare does in fact cover every state, whether or not a state has its own healthcare exchange marketplace or if the federal government set up exchanges in states that chose not to set up their own. So far 37 states, including Illinois, do not employ state healthcare exchanges and thus rely on the federal exchange through www.healthcare.gov.
The case hinged largely on a technical reading of the relevant statute, but the end result is that all U.S. residents who qualify for ACA coverage on healthcare marketplace exchanges can receive subsidies that are intended to make healthcare insurance more affordable. Analysts in the industry believe that without those nationwide subsidies, insurance costs would have substantially increased and leave millions uncovered. A Chicago Tribune story covering the decision opened with the example of a Chicago area woman whose insurance premiums would have nearly tripled without subsidies she receives on the Illinois marketplace exchange under the ACA. Another person would have seen monthly premiums jump from $353 per month to $739 per month.