April 10, 2012

Illinois Nursing Home “Reform” Bill To Provide Less Government Accountability

by Levin & Perconti

Our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers know that enacting legislative changes to improve care at local seniors care facilities is never an easy task. The political process is a complex one, with various groups jousting to protect their own interests. In many ways it is far easier to ensure a potential legal change fails than it is to actually make that change law. That is why there is a tendency for the status quo to remain—no matter how clear the need for improvements in care.

That principle is on display in the statehouse right now as elder care advocates are fighting to improve care for local seniors. As explained last week in the State-Journal Register, last week the Illinois House unanimously approved a bill that would actually make it harder for state officials to provide accountability to homes if lapses in care lead to injury or death. The measure, House Bill 5849, would roll back much of the 2010 landmark nursing home reform law claim advocates working to eliminate Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse. Of course, it does not take much extrapolation to see how the elimination of the state’s power to fine and cite facilities for misconduct would remove an important check on improper local care. The advance of the measure is particularly unwelcome considering the immense work necessary for the original law to pass in the first place in 2010.

According to Wendy Meltzer, the director of Illinois Citizens for Better Care, “Nursing home reform doesn’t die in a big, splashy way, where everybody pays attention and you go ‘Oh my God, what a big thing that was.’ Nursing home reform dies quietly and on the edges by making it bureaucratically impossible to implement nursing home reform.”

Her comments are directed at the way that this latest measure has seemed to quietly advance through the legislative process without much outcry at the actual effect of the bill. The AARP is also opposed to the bill because of its perceived effects on the care and well-being of local seniors. For their part, supporters of the bill are claiming that the law only provides more uniform regulation. However, the “uniformity” of the regulation comes at the expense of making it harder for those facilities which act irresponsibly from being held accountable for the harm they cause. Each Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers at our firm knows that most legal changes that protect big nursing home companies instead of senior citizens are always shaded in innocuous claims about the real effect of the bill.

So what does the bill actually do?

According to the story, it creates yet another layer of “review’ after serious violations are cited by state regulators. Essentially the “review” would include examination of the citation for consistency with past citations. Yet, our Illinois nursing home attorneys know that all citations already undergo a “quality control” process before a citation or fine is administered. Only after review by this additional layer of bureaucracy is an actual citation or fine handed down. The bill was recommended to a local legislator by the owner of a nursing home healthcare chain in the state.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

New Way to Support Nursing Home Laws

Pilot Program Seeks to Improve Troubled Nursing Homes in Illinois