November 25, 2014

Report Shows “Nursing Home Compare” Website Not As Reliable As Thought

by Levin & Perconti

Nursing Home Compare is a website run by Medicare.gov under the umbrella of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. It is a website intended to make it easier for prospective nursing home residents and their loved ones to research the performance histories of facilities in their area, including investigation information, previous sanctions, and other ratings that can help inform these prospective consumers. (State health and aging agencies also responsible for gathering this type of information.)

Center for Public Integrity Report

The Center for Public Integrity, however, has recently called into question the reliability of information provided by Medicare through the Nursing Home Compare website. It conducted an investigation that has revealed that the Nursing Home Compare information from Medicare does not seem to accurately reflect nursing home staffing levels. One particular problem was that 2005 Medicare cost reports from nursing facilities indicate lower staffing levels than what Nursing Home Compare reported. The inaccuracies were particularly pronounced as to registered nurses among the various other staff titles. Approximately over 80% of facilities reported higher registered nurse staffing levels than was reported directly to Medicare.

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November 24, 2014

Camera Catches Abuse in Florida Nursing Home

by Levin & Perconti

As we have repeatedly addressed the issue of cameras in nursing homes remains a hot topic. As earlier noted Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s recently came out in support of legislation permitting nursing home residents and their families to install their own cameras in their own rooms. Stories continue to stream in that suggest a continuing need of using cameras to document abuse and neglect. Even more importantly, they may prevent mistreatment through deterrence of nursing home staffers who would think twice about abusing or neglecting a patient knowing it could all be captured on hidden tape. Several states have already moved to make such permission lawful. While Florida is not one of them, sad and unfortunate news of abuse being caught on tape could spur yet another state to at least consider the possibility.

Criminal Charges after Abuse

As recently reported, two nursing assistants, both certified for the profession, were criminally charged with battery. The abuse was perpetrated on a 76 year old patient who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Thus this case also exemplifies the mix of physical and mental challenges that many nursing home residents face in concert and also shows how vulnerable residents are particularly where they are mentally impaired and so easy to take advantage of in any situation.

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November 23, 2014

Nursing Home Quality Assessment Expected to Improve by 2016

by Levin & Perconti

A recent study by Families for Better Care revealed that Illinois ranks as the eighth-worst in the nation for nursing home care, reflecting particularly low levels of staffing per patient. Especially given an expected “silver tsunami” of increased need for elderly care as baby boomers age, individuals affected by nursing home abuse and neglect will increasingly look to federal assessment mechanisms such as on-site inspections and federal reporting to ensure that nursing homes are complying with federal and state requirements. In theory, staffing levels reflect the amount of direct care time provided to a patient, so that inspectors and the general public can evaluate a given nursing home.

However, annual inspections have been decreasing and federal data reporting may be inaccurate. Between 2008 and 2012, state nursing home inspections dropped by 6%. These inspections, which provide data for the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare site, are susceptible to inflation of reported staffing levels. According to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity, one nursing home executive was reported as admitting that “staffing hours will be a little high this week but will drop the following week.” Even if the self-reported data is not inflated, Nursing Home Compare currently conflates nursing staff directors and direct care nurses, which means that its staffing level estimates may not accurately reflect direct care time.

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November 23, 2014

Selecting the Best Nursing Home for Your Needs

by Levin & Perconti

There are many independent services that provide reviews and ratings for various nursing homes across the state, but official rankings are made available by the government. Medicare provides each facility with a rating out of 5 stars based on health inspections, quality measures and staffing.

Health Inspections

The ratings take into account all health inspections for the last three years (with more consideration being given to the more recent inspections). Any inspections that were the result of complaints in the last three years are also taken into account. The two factors used when reviewing health inspections are the scope and severity of any issues. How long it took the facility to correct these issues and how many times the issue needed to be reinspected are also factored in.

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November 21, 2014

State Fails to Adequately Address Nursing Home Complaints

by Levin & Perconti

It can be a very nerve-racking experience to put a loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility, particularly knowing of so many horror stories about how residents and patients are treated by staffers at facilities around the country. This is why due diligence of these facilities ahead of time is so vital and can make all the difference. In performing such due diligence, though, we rely on third party consumer groups that investigate and rate homes, but also rely heavily on our own government, both state and federal.

As many know, the Illinois Department of Public Health has a vital role in watching over our state’s nursing homes and facilities. In general state and federal health and/or aging departments and agencies take a tremendous role in implementing and enforcing key rules and regulations as to how nursing homes can operate and the quality of care expected from the workers in those facilities. Government health agencies are responsible for conducting regular audits and inspections, hearing complaints and responding to them with further inspections, and sanctioning homes that do not meet certain standards or that are found to allow for abuse and neglect to persist against their patients. It is scary to think about, but what happens when our government fails at that very job? Unfortunately, according to recent reports, California has failed a recent test as to its regulators’ responsibilities to investigate and address allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Investigation Problems

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November 19, 2014

Federal Nursing Home Comparison Website May Be Over-Reporting Staffing Levels

by Levin & Perconti

Choosing a safe and comfortable nursing home for your loved one can be a difficult choice. Many individuals have relied on the Nursing Home Compare website to evaluate the quality of nursing homes in their area. The site, which is furnished by the federal government, provides visitors with five-star ratings on health inspections, staffing levels, and overall quality for each nursing home. Users can view the total number of licensed nurse staff hours per resident per day for a given nursing home and compare that number to the national average. Staffing levels are a critical metric for individuals choosing a nursing home, because lower levels of individualized attention are a contributing factor in nursing home abuse and neglect.

Recently, however, the Center for Public Integrity released a report contesting the staffing level data reported by the federal Nursing Home Compare site. According to the Center, the staffing levels reported by Nursing Home Compare are less accurate because they are based on self-reported data and annually scheduled site visits. Because the site visits are scheduled, nursing homes could inflate the staffing levels during the site visit and, according to one academic paper analyzing the issue, such inflation does occur systematically.

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November 19, 2014

Your Nursing Home Gets Government Funding - Does That Mean It’s Safe?

by Levin & Perconti

Even though a nursing home that is liable for negligence may be fined by the government for these oversights, it may also receive government benefits in spite of them. Most notably, many nursing home facilities that received only one star from Medicare’s nursing home rating system (out of a possible five) are still receiving low-rate guaranteed mortgages from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Mortgages are even being guaranteed to nursing home facilities that have a history of residents being sexually abused or dying suspiciously.

These low-rate mortgages were originally supplied to nursing home facilities by the government as part of the National Housing Act of 1959. The original purpose of this part of the Act was to provide funding nursing homes that were having trouble otherwise finding funding. The mortgages are currently available to both for-profit and not-for-profit facilities. Even though nursing home facilities have greater profits and a more reliable source of income due to Medicaid, the Act has still remained in effect, and facilities still receive government aid.

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November 18, 2014

Important Panel in Chicago Next Spring on Dementia Will Feature Levin & Perconti Attorneys

by Levin & Perconti

The elderly deal with many afflictions as they age, any number of which could require a stay in a nursing home or long-term care facilities. There could be physical reasons, such as recovering from a fall, recovering from a procedure, or just the fact they need assistance because they are physically incapable of helping themselves. And often overlooked is the fact that mental afflictions can also be the reason for needing a nursing home. Many elderly suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This can lead to forgetfulness, a propensity to wander, or incidents of panic or violence where someone becomes so confused, among other types of incidents.

The Scope of the Problem

In the United States, as of 2014 approximately 5.2 million Americans suffer from dementia or specifically Alzheimer’s disease. According to alz.org, every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s in the U.S. and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. About a half million people die from Alzheimer’s including 1 in 3 senior citizens. And more crucial to our purposes here, in the year 2013, 15.5 million medical care providers spent nearly 18 billion hours of unpaid care which were estimated at a value of $220 billion, thus representing the crucial need and the substantial expense of paying for healthcare for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

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November 17, 2014

Nursing Home Quality Assessment Expected to Improve by 2016

by Levin & Perconti

A recent study by Families for Better Care revealed that Illinois ranks as the eighth-worst in the nation for nursing home care, reflecting particularly low levels of staffing per patient. Especially given an expected “silver tsunami” of increased need for elderly care as baby boomers age, individuals affected by nursing home abuse and neglect will increasingly look to federal assessment mechanisms such as on-site inspections and federal reporting to ensure that nursing homes are complying with federal and state requirements. In theory, staffing levels reflect the amount of direct care time provided to a patient, so that inspectors and the general public can evaluate a given nursing home.

However, annual inspections have been decreasing and federal data reporting may be inaccurate. Between 2008 and 2012, state nursing home inspections dropped by 6%. These inspections, which provide data for the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare site, are susceptible to inflation of reported staffing levels. According to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity, one nursing home executive was reported as admitting that “staffing hours will be a little high this week but will drop the following week.” Even if the self-reported data is not inflated, Nursing Home Compare currently conflates nursing staff directors and direct care nurses, which means that its staffing level estimates may not accurately reflect direct care time.

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November 17, 2014

Illinois Attorney General in Favor of Nursing Home Cameras

by Levin & Perconti

A major controversy discussed multiple times here, across the state of Illinois, and across the United States, has been the issue of allowing hidden cameras in nursing homes. The proposition of using hidden cameras to document such abuse and neglect has gained momentum in recent months and years. Some states, like Oklahoma, Washington, Texas, New Mexico and Maryland, actually permit the use of hidden cameras, and others are contemplating legislation to do just that. This trend demonstrates the recognized importance of closely monitoring the behavior of nursing home and long-term care facility doctors, nurses, nursing aides, and other staffers.

Illinois is one such state that is seemingly moving toward explicitly legalizing the use of hidden cameras in nursing homes. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been working on a draft bill that would permit nursing home residents and/or their families to use hidden cameras to capture footage in the patients’ rooms. These rooms can often be the sites of target="_blank"elder abuse, neglect, and theft of property by nursing home workers.

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November 13, 2014

Class Action Filed Against Owner of 57 Nursing Homes

by Levin & Perconti

We have previously covered a number of cases of abuse and neglect at nursing homes that result in civil lawsuits by individuals and/or their families, by the government for penalties and violations of laws, rules and regulations, including the False Claims Act (or state equivalents), and even criminal charges for the grossest of neglect and harshest of abuse by nursing home staffers and aides. Yet we have not had occasion to cover a particularly large type of civil action known as a class action lawsuit. For the uninitiated, a class action lawsuit is one brought by a larger number of people, and typically named for the lead plaintiff in the case. Class action lawsuits are commonly seen in tort cases, namely products liability cases for example where a car part has caused injury, or a toy has caused injury.

The Nursing Home Lawsuit

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November 10, 2014

Extendicare Health Services Inc. Latest to Settle with Uncle Sam and Several States

by Levin & Perconti

An entity owning a chain of nursing homes has become the latest to settle with the United States government over allegations that it fraudulently billed the government for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for what has been described as “substandard” care to those nursing home residents. The entity called Extendicare Health Services Inc., owns the Arbors of Sylvania nursing home in Toledo, Ohio, and others around the country.

It has been written up by health authorities for a variety of alleged violations of regulation in failing to properly care for residents. Among the various allegations, the nursing home was accused of allowing patients to become dehydrated and malnourished, and in at least one case failed to properly take care of a patient in his or her use of a catheter, which for those familiar is a very serious medical device. In other instances, nursing home staff did not give patients their medications. To add to the mess, there were also incidents of patients falling due to allegedly negligent care and poor attention on those patients.

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