A new trend has emerged in several states including Pennsylvania & New Mexico: Attorneys General partnering with private law firms to sue large nursing home chains for negligent care, Medicare/Medicaid fraud, and deceptive marketing tactics. An article in a December edition of Reading Eagle, a Reading, PA newspaper, puts a spotlight on this growing movement to improve the quality of care received at nursing homes in all states. In Pennsylvania alone, Attorney General Bruce Beemer has filed 3 lawsuits (one of which has since settled) against 3 of Pennsylvania’s largest nursing home chains in the past year and a half. The case versus Reliant Senior Care (now Priority Healthcare Group) settled for a reported $2 million and was the largest nursing home settlement in PA won by an attorney general. The other two chains who are still locked in a legal battle against the state are Golden Living Centers and Grane Health Care.
Sending a Message
Nursing home industry advocates are obviously unnerved by partnerships between attorneys general and private law practices who have a history of success in helping right the injustices caused by big business on the American people. While these advocates argue that private law firms are giving donations to campaigns for attorneys general to essentially guarantee they’ll be called upon for future work, the law does not seem to be on their side. The State of Pennsylvania was unsuccessfully sued by the nursing home industry for such practices. Elderly advocates believe working relationships between public and private legal entities will send a message to the industry that American taxpayers expect more from facilities receiving Medicare & Medicaid tax dollars.
A Motive for Negligent Care
Just yesterday, Levin & Perconti’s Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Blog highlighted the common denominator in most nursing home neglect cases: low staffing numbers to keep costs down. In the cases brought forth by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, each of the 3 nursing home operators were accused of failing to meet the needs of residents by inadequately staffing their facilities. Despite making promises to go above and beyond for residents in ads for their nursing homes, the lawsuit against Grane Health Care alleges that staff would leave residents in dirty undergarments and bed linens for hours.
Could Illinois be Next?
With Pennsylvania’s recent successful settlement against Reliant Senior Care and elder abuse becoming an increasingly talked about problem in attorney general offices, more states are sure to pursue legal action against nursing home operators, especially those with a history of being repeat offenders. We can only hope that our state might be one of those to join this recent trend of bringing those that harm our elderly to justice.