We have covered time and again the importance of government agencies, state and federal, in investigating the performance of nursing homes, reporting publicly on violations, putting homes on probationary status, and even shutting them where necessary. These agencies also will put facilities on performance improvement plans that require them to curb abuses, stop negligence, and improve living conditions and care plans for patients, or face the loss of their license to do business and thus closure.
While state health and aging agencies largely handle these matters, as well as the United States Department for Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for the federal government, it is also state attorneys general and the U.S. Attorney General that play important roles in holding nursing homes accountable. This can take the form of civil lawsuits to recover for misuse of federal or state funds, as well as even criminal charges for the very same or for heinous treatment of patients that amount to criminal violations.
The New Mexico Case
A recent case in New Mexico exemplifies the importance of attorneys general and the Justice Department. At the start of the month, the New Mexico Attorney General sued a powerhouse nursing home group for keeping lower staffing levels which consequently has resulted in poor care for patients. This exemplifies a common problem which has been of tremendous concern. Nursing homes keep staffing levels low because it means less in wages and salaries to pay, less in benefits, and this ultimately results in greater profits for the nursing home owners to keep.
The problem is that so many patients do not get the adequate care needed due to the lack of nurses and nursing aides. In addition to this problem, we have even come to learn about how one federally operated website, Nursing Home Compare, has been gathering and reporting inaccurate data on nursing home reviews and violation records which provides an inaccurate picture for consumers looking to choose the right facility for themselves or their loved ones.
The New Mexico Attorney General has sued Texas-based Preferred Care Partners Management Group L.P., which has nursing homes in nearly a dozen states across the Southwest, Midwest and Southeast United States. As reported by ABC News, in the last seven years or so the company has made $229 million in fees from state and federal government funds for giving one million cumulative days of care to residents. Such government funds are a common source of revenue through insurance plans like Medicare and Medicaid.
Yet the nursing homes owned by the defendant company have failed to comply with regulations by both states and the federal government by providing poor care that has led to hygiene problems, injuries, dehydration and malnourishment, as well as death. Such government funds are only available if facilities actually comply with rules of care. The New Mexico AG’s case is reported to have testimony from staffers and employees who have blown the whistle on the low staffing levels that have kept them from addressing patient needs properly and timely. While not yet proved, these allegations paint a disturbing picture of disregard for patients in order to gain profit, and to also do so fraudulently at the expense of the American taxpayers.
See Other Blog Posts: