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Nursing Home Watchdogs were muted by Bush Regulation

The Bush administration shut off a source of information last fall about elderly abuse and neglect that people suing nursing homes consider crucial to their cases. The change that affects the nursing home industry occurred with no public notice or attention, perhaps because of the array of last-minute rules that President Bush’s appointees rushed out before leaving. The rule designated state inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors as federal employees. Federal employees are usually shielded from providing evidence for either side in private litigation. The practical effect is to force litigants to go to great lengths when suing nursing homes, including seeking court orders, to get inspection reports or depositions for cases they are pursuing or defending. The new rule generally prohibits state health departments and contractors that do auditing and other services for the government from participating in private lawsuits involving facilities that are in the federal assistance program without the approval by the head of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Lawyers are currently approaching the Obama administration to get rid of the rule that hinders so many elderly abuse lawsuits. To read more about this legislation, click here.