We previously covered the goal of a Taxes lawmaker to institute a three-strikes rule that would require a nursing home or long-term care facility to shut down after it has at least three health or safety violations as determined by the state’s Department of Aging and Disability Services. State Senator Charles Schwertner from Georgetown, Texas has worked to gain support for this initiative, and recently proposed a bill that, if gathering enough legislative support and the signature of new Governor Greg Abbott, would require the Department of Aging and Disability Services to revoke the license of any facility that has three strikes. These violations or “strikes” would have to fall on separate days, and would be considered over the course of a 24 month time period, thus all three strikes would have to fall in the span of two years.
Understanding the Law
This bill was prompted by findings at certain nursing homes that failed to operate up to standards. One home, for example, lost its license as well as federal funding (presumably through Medicare and/or Medicaid) because it had a whopping “70 deficiencies” which included lack of cleanliness, as well as poor food quality, among other things. A local affiliate also conducted an independent investigation in which it discovered how Texas did not do what it was supposed to in “thousands of cases,” and that the state failed “to report allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation to law enforcement within 24 hours . . . in more than 1,500 instances.”
The state legislature itself also conducted a review of the Department of Aging and Disability Services and was not satisfied with what it found. Senator Schwertner was also motivated to propose this legislation because in his opinion the rules governing the state’s authority to revoke nursing home licenses were “too vague,” and there needed to be tougher laws to hold nursing homes within the lone star state accountable and responsible. In addition to a “three strikes and you’re out” rule, Texas legislators also would like to make the state’s oversight of elder care and nursing home care more streamlined and efficient by merging multiple health and safety agencies, including Aging and Disability Services, into one single department with oversight by the state’s Health and Human Services Commission (although as reported, the Commission has faced allegations of impropriety and wastefulness, but that is another story for another day).
Improving Elder Care
This three strikes legislation, if made law during the 2015 legislative session, would be a substantial step in the right direction to protect nursing home residents, particularly elderly ones. This proposed legislation is also notable in light of a nursing home watchdog’s assessment of each state’s performance across the country. Texas was dead last in this assessment and deemed the worst state for nursing home care in the country.
It obviously has a long way to go to dig itself out, and it will require a tremendous effort to investigate poorly performing nursing homes, institute newer and better rules and regulations, enforce those rules and regulations, and ultimately ensure these facilities perform better and that consumers for this type of care have more confidence in where they reside or send their loved ones for rehabilitation and recovery, or to live out their later years. Senator Schwertner’s bill could very well be a substantial step in this direction if it is indeed passed into law in the coming year.
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