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Federal Reimbursement Changes Need Not Lead to More Nursing Home Neglect

Our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers know that most facilities attempt to make excuses for their negligent or abusive conduct. Of course, unless the abuse is so obvious that it would be absurd to deny it, most homes first claim that there was no problem at all. However with proper investigations, the mistreatment is usually shown through a preponderance of the evidence. At that point, the facilities typically try to explain about the inadequate care.

One of the most common refrains used by negligent nursing homes is the claim that it is someone else’s fault-namely the government that fails to give them enough money to provide proper care. For example, this month the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services explain that they were reducing payments to some nursing homes nationwide by 11.1 percent because of an unintended spike in payments. Of course, upon release of this information, industry executives bitterly complained and said that the quality of nursing home care will suffer as a result.

It is important for all neutral observers to recognize this for what it is: a misleading attempt to maximize its own share of the federal government pie. The Des Moines Register published an editorial this week that said as much when describing the nursing home industry’s reaction to the CMS decision. Owners of stocks for many of these large nursing home chains explained that they will be unlikely to buy more shares because of this pricing issue. In other words, because the facility won’t make as much money for shareholders, they claim that nursing home neglect will increase.

Of course, this hearkens back to one of the fundamental problems within the industry to begin with: why is the care of our elderly and disabled-relying on public coffers to do so-considered a “profit center?” The string of private investment firms that have been purchasing these facilities over the past few years have made it increasingly difficult to understand who actually owns these homes and who is responsible for the care inside of them. It is unacceptable for investors to complain about losing a reliable “profit stream” when many area seniors deplete their entire life savings simply to have basic services provided for them in these facilities. Those in our area absolutely have the right to demand quality care free of Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect no matter what the circumstances.

There is no reason why cuts in government funding have to automatically result in a decrease in care. When revenues are decreased, like in other fields, those in charge simply must redirect where money goes. Instead of directing money to stockholders, these facilities must devote a slightly larger share to paying for the services that these residents need. It all comes down to prioritization and the ultimate purpose of these facilities. Proper resident care is the pinnacle goal of these nursing homes, and that can never be forgotten.

Unfortunately, all too often it is. Ask any nursing home attorney and they will likely be able to share stories of mind-boggling abuse at facilities where executives and shareholders of the homes were raking in millions of dollars in profits. As CMS officials explained, the price shift will better align payments with actual costs of running these homes. The cost of running that home must always remain focused on providing quality care-not padding the pockets of those in charge of that care.

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