April 13, 2012

Nursing Home Industry Providing Substandard Care Despite Surging Profits

by Levin & Perconti

Adequate nursing home care versus maximizing profits. Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers repeatedly emphasize that the ability to improve the care of local seniors at these long-term facilities is ever-present but stymied by operators who prioritize money. The steps needed to ensure proper care are usually pretty evident: proper staffing levels, adequate training, working safety equipment, and similar measures. Providing this level of care requires a certain level of resources, but some facility owners and operators are unwilling to provide those resources. Unfortunately, in many cases it is not because they do not have the resources but simply that they’d prefer to have more money in their own pockets. Sadly, the profit-motive drives much Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse.

The same argument was recently made by a long-term care consumer group—Families for Better Care. The group noted that many nursing homes have reported “astonishing” earnings without translating the profits into better care to prevent things like pressure sores, falls, dehydration, and malnutrition.

Interestingly, many in the nursing home industry had predicted doomsday last year when Medicare rule adjustment altered how the facilities were reimbursed. However, far from bleeding into the industry’s profit margin, a representative from the consumer advocacy group explained that “the industry’s own reports show quite the opposite, revealing surging revenues, strong profits, and expansion through acquisitions. The industry is wallowing in strong profits while failing to consistently provide quality care.”

The Medicare cut in question involved, on average, an 11% reduction in skilled nursing facility payments. It went into effect last October. Each Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm heard about the doom and gloom predictions made at the time about the effect on the industry. However, the claimed problems did not materialize and, from a business perspective, the industry remains a “thriving enterprise.”

While this is good news for those who make money off of nursing homes, it does not translate into benefits for residents. Families for Better Care representatives argue that any cuts to the reimbursement are offset by the companies lowering labor costs. In other words, owners and operators keep their same level of profits while residents have fewer staff members around to help them with their day to day tasks. A November study seemed to bear these accusations out. It revealed that there was a steady decline at Medicare-licensed facilities in the total number of nursing hours provided to residents.

For their part, some in the industry counter that these statistics only reflect the situation at the largest, for-profit facilities. Smaller homes and non-profit facilities operate differently. This may be partially true, as studies have repeatedly found that nursing home abuse and neglect is more prevalent at for-profit facilities than it is at non-profit homes. However, with a subtle coalescence of homes into conglomerate, profit-driven companies, more and more seniors are being affected by poor care at these negligent profit-driven homes. Not all facilities are bad apples, but it is vital to call out those that are and demand changes to ensure senior well-being.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

New Website Aimed At Helping Families with Illinois Nursing Home Choices

Negligent Illinois Nursing Homes See Little Federal Aid