The Chicago Tribune recently reported on new findings from ProPublica which offer a glimpse at the significant problems in care quality that remain in Illinois nursing homes. As we have often explained, most facilities received significant financial support from Medicare and Medicaid. These government programs provide support to seniors and residents of limited economic means.
Because these facilities take these public funds, they open themselves up to inspections from inspectors who periodically check the facility to ensure that the quality of care provided meets state and federal requirements. When those inspections reveal problems, then the individual facility may be financially penalized or, in chronic cases, may lose the ability to continue operation altogether.
Illinois Racks Up the Deficiencies
The recent Tribune article is noteworthy in that it explains how Illinois ranks third among all states for the number of deficiencies that lead to suspended federal payments. Specifically, over the most recent three year period for which data is available, payments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid were suspended a total of 91 times. Those suspensions were given to 78 homes, with a few of them receiving multiple suspensions as a result of serious deficiencies which placed the health and well-being of residents in immediate danger.
These suspensions are significant, because they are more severe than a mere fine. Instead, the payment suspensions are meant to spur immediate action by the facility, meaning that the deficiency is deemed significant enough that it is imprudent for the problem to remain for any length of time.
Serious Illinois Nursing Home Neglect
Beyond payment suspensions, the report also found that a large number of facilities in recent years were cited for the most serious care violations. Citations come along a spectrum, with the most serious labeled “J,” “K,” or “L.” In the last three years at least 144 of the state’s 733 facilities received one of these citations.
Citations come with fines, but it is important to reiterate that in many cases the fines are trivial. For example, the average fine levied against the nearly 200 homes who were cited in recent years was slightly over $6,000. What that is a significant sum for an individual, it does not leave much of a dent on the large nursing home conglomerates which own many of these facilities. In one case a facility had 27 citations and received a total of $850 in fines.
Importantly, even the identification of serious citations does not mean that a fine is automatic. For example, according to the data culled from various sources, 54 Illinois facilities were cited for serious deficiencies but were not fined a dime for those problems. It does not take much imagination to understand that the motivation to fix the problem and ensure that future problems are avoided are lax when there is no financial penalty of any sort. And the incentive is still low even if there is a fine when that fine is comparatively low.
The record is clear: many Illinois nursing homes operate with serious deficiencies that may harm residents. Contact our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers to learn about your legal options if you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of one of these care problems.
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