Articles Posted in National Legislation

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One of the first questions those considering taking legal action ask involve their recovery. What damages does the law allow? In most cases the answer is pretty straightforward–medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional loss, and more. In some cases of senior abuse or neglect there may also be lost wages, though most seniors in these cases do not work.

On top of these damages, some may have heard about “punitive damages.” These are unique awards which do not seek to connect damage to a specific harm suffered by a plaintiff. Instead, punitive damages are rooted in punishment–seeking to deter others from engaging in similar conduct as the defendants. Much confusion remains around these damages. They remain quite rare, and, in most cases, they will not be awarded. To help explain the situation the Center for Justice and Democracy has a “White Paper” that provides a helpful overview. Click Here to view the entire document.

Punitive Liability

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The New York Times highlighted the sad truth that many struggling nursing home residents are suffering because of new regulations intended to limit abuse of prescription drugs. The disagreement centers around the circumstances under which needed drugs can be ordered for residents by nurses, instead of doctors.

Most nursing homes do not have a medical doctor on staff. That means that on many occasions, patients in severe pain would not be able to see a doctor for a day or two or more without being rushed off to the hospital which is both costly and poses health dangers itself. In those instances, nurses would call the pharmacy and get the necessary medication to help ease the suffering resident’s pain while waiting for the next available doctor examination.

However, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration has begun cracking down on that practice-pharmacies can now only dispense medication with a written or faxed prescription from a doctor. The goal of the strict regulations is to crack down on illegal use of drugs. But, that means that in the interim, those nursing home residents simply must endure without the necessary medication. Doctors and nursing home administrators keep urging the Department to take steps to correct the problematic administrative rules. Following a recent Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, several Senators have urged the US Attorney General to find a solution.

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The new healthcare reform proposal contained a number of provisions that hold a significant interest in those concerned with long-term care professionals. The first is the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act which would seek to assess nursing home quality and provide consumer information about facilities. The Elder Justice Act is another part of the bill that will greatly help improve the life of seniors. Also there is a provision that would require nursing homes to provide more stringent background checks on potential caregivers contained in the bill. This has been labeled the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act. The president’s proposal will furthermore include incentives for home-and community-based care programs that will expand the senior care workforce. Finally, the bill contains the CLASS Act which creates a payroll deduction system for long-term expenses. To learn more about the long-term care legislation, please check out the McKnight’s newsletter.

Currently there are problems between the GOP and the Democrats on many of the provisions of the health care bill. Republicans are trying to block many of the provisions that would help improve elder care. This is important legislation that must be passed in order to better safety for nursing home residents. The NCCNHR has been working around the clock in order to ensure that this important legislation is passed. Currently, 51 votes are needed to pass in the Senate. The Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys at Levin & Perconti applaud NCCNHR and Sentor Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Their hard work has hopefully made this important legislation a reality. In order to aid their efforts, please contact your Senator and voice your support for long-term health care legislation that would protect nursing home residents.

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As mentioned in an earlier post, it is crucial to show our support for the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act. The NCCNHR has posted a letter on their website that people can send to their Senators in support of this important nursing home legislation. This legislation would hold nursing home corporations accountable for poor quality care by requiring them to disclose important information on their management structures. It would also disclose staffing and turnover information which would help families to get a better sense of the quality of care their loved ones would receive. Learn more about the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act. To access the NCCNHR letter in support of the bill, click here.