An audit by the Inspector General’s Office of Health and Human Services has found that Illinois has the highest number of nursing home neglect, sexual abuse and physical abuse incidents. The report analyzed 2015-2016 emergency room records from hospitals in 33 states and found that among nursing home residents admitted as patients, 134 of them had injuries consistent with physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Even more alarming is that in nearly 40% of these cases, the incidents were not reported to local authorities, even though a more than 5 year old federal law mandates immediate reporting of injuries consistent with elder abuse.
The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin quotes the Inspector General’s report as concluding that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “has inadequate procedures to ensure that incidents of potential abuse or neglect of Medicare beneficiaries residing in (nursing homes) are identified and reported.” If Medicare is found guilty of not reporting a known case of nursing home abuse or neglect, federal law allows for a fine of up to $300,000. Despite this deterrent, Medicare has still allowed a shocking number of cases to go unreported to authorities.
Although a statement by CMS says that they are committed to protecting the elderly and investigating all incidents, nursing homes are still able to avoid punishment over allegations of abuse and neglect by falsification of records, intimidation and scare tactics to deter employees from becoming whistleblowers, and saying they’ve removed employees found guilty of infractions. Until there are harsher penalties passed down by CMS onto nursing homes for failure to report these incidents, the cycle is destined to continue.